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Will the relatives of Henrietta Lacks play a role in future HeLa cell research?

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Air date: August 25, 2013

Host: Barbara Lewis

Healthcare Policy & Public Health Medical History
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Interview: Rebecca Skloot, author, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks."

The National Institutes of Health has agreed to allow the descendants of Henrietta Lacks some control over the immortal HeLa cells, which were taken from Mrs. Lacks and used in research without her knowledge. Two of her relatives will now sit on a board that decides which research projects the HeLa cells will be used in; they will not receive any financial compensation. Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1951. While undergoing treatments at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Boston, a sample of her cells was taken and sent to a lab. Those cells never died and have been used widely in medical research. We talk with Rebecca Skloot, the author of the New York Times bestseller, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” who recently helped petition the NIH to help her family retain some control over the cells that changed history.

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