Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951)

Henrietta Lacks is considered a “Scientific American” because her immortal cell line has become an important resource in science research and particularly cancer investigation. A Black woman from Roanoke, VA, Lacks was a mother of five children and married to David Lacks. At the age of 31, Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer and died in Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore, MD.

Without permission doctors took tissue samples from her cervix, and they soon discovered that her cells had miraculous potential to reproduce. Since 1951, Lack’s cells, called the HeLa cell line, have been vital to discovering a vaccine for polio, contributing to AIDS research, and advancing treatment for cancer.

The ethical issues raised from the use of the HeLa cell line are numerous:

Neither Lacks nor her family gave the scientists permission to use her cells in research. Her family was not notified about the use of her cell line until twenty years after the research and discoveries had been taking place. The Lacks family, still poor and struggling to afford health care, has not been compensated for the use of her cells.

Here is a link to the 1998 film “Modern Times: The Way of the Flesh”, which reveals the history of her life and immortal afterlife in the hands of scientists: http://www.archive.org/details/AdamCurtisTheWayofAllFlesh

Here is another link for the soon-to-be-published book titled The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, written by Rebecca Skloot, Random House, ISBN 9-781-400-05217-2, coming out this Spring: http://rebeccaskloot.com/?page_id=8

“scientific american” interstitial

Here is an interstitial from AstroDime’s upcoming video journal INtransit V.6: “scientific american”. It’s a stop-motion collage from various issues of Sci-Am from the last few years.

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INtransit V.6: “scientific american” now closed

We’ve now closed our call for work for INtransit V.6: “scientific american”. We are busily editing and will soon have interviews and artist profiles on this site. We’re accepting entries for INtransit V.7: La America Científica, on art, science, and technology in Latin America. Take a look at our call for work!

We also have an ongoing call for work for any work that deals with art and technoscience. If accepted, work goes in our library for consideration for future screenings and INtransit issues. For more info contact sam smiley at rocketscience@virtualberet.net.

-sam smiley