Henrietta Lacks- Celebrating Women's History Month

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Henrietta Lacks, a tobacco farmer from Southern Virginia, changed our health in a much less outright way than many of the pioneering women on our list. Lacks developed cervical cancer around age 30, and a scientist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore used cells from her tumor to create the first immortal line of human cells to be used for future medical research, called the HeLa cells -- without telling her. Lacks succumbed to cancer in 1951, but HeLa cells went on to play an instrumental role in a number of monumental health discoveries and procedures, including developing the vaccine for polio, cloning and in vitro fertilization. Despite the fact that the cells have been "bought and sold by the billions," according to journalist Rebecca Skloot's recent book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Lacks's family cannot afford health insurance today. The Henrietta Lacks Foundation "strives to provide financial assistance to needy individuals who have made important contributions to scientific research without their knowledge or consent," according to the Foundation's website, and a portion of the proceeds from Skloot's book are being donated to the Foundation. -- SK

Originally taken from The Huffington Post on 2/28/2017 4:14 PM EST. Women in History Slide Show