Thursday, October 21, 2021

Henrietta Lacks estate sues the company over the use of its cells

COLLEGE PARK, MD (WNN) — The estate of Henrietta Lacks sued a biotechnology company Monday over what Johns Hopkins Hospital doctors asked a black woman in 1951 without her knowledge or consent as part of a “racial” accused of selling cells. Unjust medical system. “

The estate’s federal lawsuit says that Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., of Waltham, Massachusetts, intentionally mass-produced and sold tissue that was taken from Lax by doctors at the hospital.

HeLa cells taken from a woman’s tumor before she died of cervical cancer became the first human cells to be successfully cloned and have since reproduced infinitely. They have been used in countless scientific and medical innovations, including the development of the polio vaccine and gene mapping.

lac cells were harvested and grown long before the advent of consent procedures Today it is used in medicine and scientific research, but lawyers for the family say the company has continued to commercialize the results since the origin of the HeLa cell line.

“Thermo Fisher Scientific is aware that HeLa cells were stolen from Ms. Lax and decided to use her body for profit,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit asks the court in Baltimore to order Thermo Fisher Scientific “to liquidate the full amount of its net profit derived from the commercialization of the HeLa cell line to the assets of Henrietta Lacks.” It also seeks an order permanently barring Thermo Fisher Scientific from using the HeLa cell line without the estate’s permission.

On its website, the company says it generates about $35 billion in annual revenue. A spokesperson for the company did not immediately comment on the lawsuit.

HeLa cells were discovered to have unique properties. While most cell samples died soon after being removed from the body, their cells survived and thrived in laboratories. This extraordinary quality made it possible to cultivate his cells indefinitely – they became known as the first immortal human cell line – making it possible for scientists to reproduce the study anywhere using similar cells.

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The remarkable science involved – and the impact on the Lax family, some of whom suffer from chronic diseases without health insurance – is documented in a bestselling book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” Oprah Winfrey portrayed her daughter in the HBO film about the story. The suit was filed on October 4, 1951, exactly 70 years after the day he died.

The lawsuit says that in the 1950s a group of white doctors at Johns Hopkins hunted black women with cervical cancer, cutting tissue samples from their patients’ cervixes.

“The exploitation of Henrietta Lacks represents an unfortunately common struggle experienced by black people throughout history,” the suit says. “Indeed, black suffering has fueled myriad medical advances and benefits without any compensation or recognition. Various studies, both documented and undocumented, have promoted the dehumanization of black people.”

Among the lawyers for the family estate is Ben Crump, Florida-based civil rights attorney. Crump rose to national prominence in recent years for representing the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd – black people whose deaths at the hands of police and vigilantes sparked a national movement toward police reform and racial justice. helped revive it.

johns hopkins medicine says It reviewed his interactions with Lacks and his family over 50 years since the 2010 publication Rebecca Schlott’s book. It says it has “never sold or profited from the discovery or distribution of HeLa cells and does not own the rights to the HeLa cell line,” but it has accepted an ethical responsibility.

“At several points in those decades, we found that Johns Hopkins should have been – and should have been – to inform and work with Henrietta Lacks family members about her, her privacy and respect for her personal interests,” Johns Hopkins Medicine says on its website.

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