There are several stories about Africa and its contributions to humanity that historians have forgotten or presume not worth sharing.
In spite of Africa’s contribution to technology, medicine, science, architecture and other fields of human endeavor, adequate or commensurate recognition has hardly been accorded the continent in that regard.
One outstanding feat, which would speak till eternity in the field of medicine, is the case of an African American woman whose cells were studied and used to create Polio Vaccine. Today, several weak European children would have forever remained paralyzed if not for her cell.
Henrietta Lacks ceell was one of the greatest breakthroughs in human history. Because her cell had the ability to regenerate, it was then recreated to cure Polio disease. Although, her cells were taken without her permission.
This can be dated to 1951, when Lacks went for treatments at John Hopkins Hospital, due to vaginal bleeding which she was suffering from. After being examined and tested, it was discovered that she had a huge malignant tumor on her cervix. Her results were tabled before Dr. Howard Jones, who was a renowned gynecologist.
At that period in American history, blacks restrictions and segregation were at its peak, and The John Hopkins Hospital was among the few that treated and opened its health facility to the poor African Americans.
According to the medical records found at the hospital, it is gathered that she eventually began treatment for cervical cancer at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the Radium treatment which was the best medical treatment available at the time was used for her.
Thereafter, a biopsy was carried out on her, and the sample of her cancer cells was received and sent to a nearby tissue that belonged to Dr. George Gey, who was an outstanding cancer and virus researcher.
Before Henrietta’s cells were taken, Dr. George had been taking cells from cervix cancer patients of The Johns Hopkins Hospital, but the cell samples which he took would die after a little while. But he then discovered that Mrs. Henrietta Lack’s cells grew and replicated within the space of 20 to 24 hours.
Unfortunately, on 4th of October that same year, Mrs. Henrietta Lacks passed away. She was 31 at the time leaving 5 children behind.
But after her demise, her cells were then used to further great medical breakthroughs in medicine. Her cells, till date, are being used all over the world to research on the effects of hormones, drugs, toxins, and also viruses regarding the growth of cancer cells without using humans as animals for experiments.
Her incredible cells, which was named “HeLa” cells , have proved very effective in the testing of radiation and poisons, and the study of human genes. Most importantly her cells played an effective role in the study of viruses and the creation of a lasting vaccine for polio.
Currently, a record of 17,000 medical patents have been produced from HeLa cells in the United States, and huge money has been made from these patents.
Despite that Mrs. Lacks’ consent was not taken before her cells were taken, scientists around the globe have continued to use her cells in research. In that same vein, scientists in Germany, in 2013, published a paper that they had made a sequence of the HeLa cell genome “putting Lacks’ DNA officially on the Internet for all to see,” according to the Guardian newspaper.
Lacks’ family said the majority of research and publications by scientists, published were without their consent, until 2018, when the family had a case with the hospital and other bodies, as they demanded the custody of Mrs. Henrietta. Lacks cells.