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World Health Organization Honors Late Henrietta Lacks for Contribution to Scientific Research

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Lux, a black woman, suffered from cervical cancer when she was being treated at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951. A surgeon removed cells from the cervix during surgery without her consent, and the sample allowed hospital doctors to create the first cells of a human cell line that regenerates in vitro.

The cell line, now known as HeLa cells, has helped scientists experiment and create life-saving drugs such as polio vaccines, in vitro fertilization, and gene mapping, helping advance cancer and AIDS research.

31-year-old Lux ​​died of cancer in the same year, but her influence on the medical field remained. WHO Director General Award..

In a statement, Secretary-General Tedros Adhanom Gebreyes said, “In honoring Henrietta Lacks, WHO acknowledges the importance of promoting racial equality in health and science, taking into account past scientific injustices. There are. ” “It is also an opportunity to recognize women who have made incredible but often invisible contributions to medicine, especially those of color.”

Lux’s grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and some of the other family members attended the awards ceremony at the WHO office in Geneva. Her 87-year-old son, Lawrence Lux Sr., received the award on her behalf.

“We were impressed with receiving this historical recognition of our mother Henrietta Lacks. She praised her being a remarkable woman and the lasting effects of HeLa cells. Mother’s contribution Once hidden, it is now justified for its global influence, “Lawrence Lux said in a statement.

“My mother was a pioneer in life, giving back to her community, helping others lead a better life, and caring for others,” he added. “Even if she dies, she continues to help the world. Her legacy lives on in us. Thank you for saying her name-Henrietta Lacks.”

Henrietta Lacks died in 1951, but her cells, removed without her consent, have been used in groundbreaking scientific research for decades.

Family sues biotechnology company for non-consensual use of her cells

At the time of Lux’s procedure, collecting cells from people without consent did not violate the protocol.

Earlier this month Lux family filed a proceeding For Thermo Fisher Scientific, because of the unjust enrichment of non-consensual use and the benefits from her tissue samples and cell lines.

The proceedings allege that Thermo Fisher Scientific has deliberately benefited from the “illegal activity” of Johns Hopkins doctors, and that “the unobtained profits naturally belong to Lux Estate.” ..

The company sells and mass-produces the living tissue of black women, grandmothers, and community leader Henrietta Lacks, despite the company’s knowledge that Lux’s organization was taken from her without her consent. By a doctor at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and a racially unjust medical system claiming that he is making a conscious choice. “

The origin of HeLa cells has been unclear for years, but Lux’s story is Become widely known In the 21st century. It was the subject of the best-selling book “Henrietta Lacks Immortal Life” published in 2010 and a subsequent movie of the same name starring Oprah Winfrey.US House of Representatives Recognized her A non-consensual contribution to cancer research, John Hopkins holds an annual series of talks on her medical implications.

The proceedings allege that Thermo Fisher Scientific did not know the history behind the product containing HeLa cells due to this widespread recognition, and admits that the cells were taken without racks on the company’s web site. Points to a page on the site. I agree. According to the proceedings, there are at least 12 products sold by Thermo Fisher, including HeLa cell lines.

According to the Thermo Fisher Scientific website, annual revenue is about $ 35 billion. CNN contacted the company for comment.

Taylor Lomin of CNN contributed to this report.

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