Henrietta Lacks Family and NIH Reach Agreement

The family of Henrietta Lacks will now have some control over how scientists use her cells, taken more than 60-years ago, without her consent.

According to NPR:

The National Institutes of Health and the Lacks family have agreed to give scientists access to the genetic sequence of the cells, with some restrictions to safeguard her relatives’ privacy. NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins described the agreement covering these so-called HeLa cells Wednesday, and how it came to be in the journal Nature.


HeLa cells have been cited in as many 74,000 articles and have been instrumental in development of the polio vaccine, in vitro fertilization and numerous treatments for cancer and other diseases. The newly reached agreement establishes a committee, which includes members of the Lacks family, which will still allow for the HeLa genome to be published yet still respects the family’s privacy. Scientists will have to apply to access the code and applications will be considered a case-by-case basis.

Learn more this important development from NPR News and the New York Times. Also, take a look at the 2010 book: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, available from Miner Library.




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