In 1951, a woman died in Baltimore, America. She was called Henrietta Lacks. These are cells from her body. They were taken from her just before she died. They have been growing and multiplying ever since.
There are now billions of these cells in laboratories around the world. If massed together, they would weigh 400 times her original weight. These cells have transformed modern medicine, but they also became caught up in the politics of our age. They shape the policies of countries and of presidents. They even became involved in the cold war because scientists were convinced that in her cells lay the secret to how to conquer death.
“It was not like an ordinary cancer. This was different, this didn’t look like cancer. It was purple and it bled very easily on touching. I’ve never seen anything that looked like it and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that looked like it since, so it was a very special different kind of, well, it turned out to be a tumor.” –Dr. Howard Jones, Gynecologist.