Declare a National Day of Recognition for Henrietta Lacks of the Immortal 'HeLa' cell line
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Henrietta Lacks was a black tobacco farmer from Roanoke, Virginia who died of an aggressive form of cervical cancer in 1951. Unbeknownst to her, doctors removed cell tissue from her body during treatment then cultured and shared them with fellow researchers after her death. These cells were the basis of the immortal ‘HeLa’ line, which was used by Jonas Salk to develop the polio vaccine, NASA to observe human cell behavior in zero gravity, and in the creation of many of the drugs and medicines taken for granted today. HeLa remains a foundation for other landmark scientific discoveries, not excluding breakthroughs in cancer, AIDS, and genetics research. For decades, however, Lacks and her family received no credit, a tragedy that was partially remedied in 2013, when an agreement was reached between Lacks’ descendants and the National Institutes of Health regarding consent and controlled access to HeLa.
On January 30, 2015, members of the Lacks family were honored guests at the White House for the unveiling of President Obama’s new ‘Precision Medicine’ initiative. According to WhiteHouse.gov: “[The] Precision Medicine Initiative will pioneer a new model of patient-powered research that promises to accelerate biomedical discoveries […] to select which treatments will work best for which patients” with an emphasis on rigorous privacy protections. Since the Administration has already recognized the contributions and sacrifices of Henrietta and her family, a designated day of recognition for her would be a logical next step towards not only promoting this initiative, but bestowing long overdue acknowledgement upon the matriarch of modern biomedical research. Please add your name in support of a National Day of Recognition for Henrietta Lacks.
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/henrietta- lacks-immortal-cells-6421299/? no-ist
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/01/30/fact- sheet-president-obama-s- precision-medicine-initiative
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