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Virginia Honors Woman Whose Cells Remain Immortal

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From Virginia Public Radio

Members of the General Assembly signed a resolution paying tribute Lacks, whose cells have been used in medical research for decades.

Lacks was an African-American from Clover who died of cervical cancer in 1951. But using tissue extracted from her tumor, a Johns Hopkins scientist created the first immortal human cell line, called "HeLa" cells to protect her identity. Her family found out 25 years later.

Sen. Mamie Locke (D) says the cells still grow, doubling every 24 hours.

"They have traveled in space, advanced medical research in fertility and genetics, and the understanding and treatment of cancer and AIDS, and contributed to the invention of the first effective polio vaccine by Jonas Salk," she says.

Johns Hopkins' vice dean of Clinical Investigation, Daniel Ford, said there's no disease where fundamental discoveries were made without HeLa cells.

Two of Lacks' sons and two grandchildren came to the Capitol to witness the tribute.


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