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World Health Organization honors Henrietta Lacks with an Award

Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks was an African American woman, whose cancerous cells revolutionized medical research.

On February 1, 1951 Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer after a visit to John Hopkins Hospital. Cells from her tumor were removed for research purposes without her knowledge or permission. During her second visit to the Hospital, Dr. George Otto Gey obtained another sample of her tumor. This sample of cells was used to create the HeLa immortal cell line. Lacks cells were the first human cells that didn’t die after cell divisions in a lab. This made the cells immortal. 

Lacks cells were used to develop the polio vaccine, the HPV vaccine, COVID-19, research among other medical and biological advancements. 


The chief of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Ghebreyesus, honored Lacks with a WHO Director-General’s Award at a special ceremony. 

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