(Extensions of Remarks - June 04, 1997)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E1109]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                      IN MEMORY OF HENRIETTA LACKS


                      HON. ROBERT L. EHRLICH, JR.

                              of maryland

                    in the house of representatives

                        Wednesday, June 4, 1997

  Mr. EHRLICH. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Henrietta 
Lacks, a woman whose contributions to medical science and research have 
gone relatively unnoticed for the past 46 years. Ms. Lacks provided a 
crucial sample of cells that has furthered our knowledge of medical 
science and disease prevention, and for this contribution, we are all 
  Henrietta Lacks was born in 1920 in Clover, VA. At the age of 23 she 
moved to Turner's Station, near Baltimore, MD, joining her husband 
David. She had five children, four of whom--Deborah, David Jr., 
Lawrence, and Zakariyya--still survive. Ms. Lacks was known as pleasant 
and smiling, and always willing to lend a helping hand.
  After the birth of her fifth child, Ms. Lacks was admitted to the 
hospital at Johns Hopkins University where she was found to have 
cervical cancer. Before her death, she donated a tumor biopsy section 
which became the first human cell line to survive outside the body. 
This cell line has proven instrumental to medical research.
  Due to traditional patient confidentiality requirements, Ms. Lacks 
was not acknowledged as the donor of the cells. Instead, the donor 
remained anonymous, and the cell line was known only as the HeLa cells. 
Under the care of Dr. George O. Gey, the cells flourished due to his 
innovative methods of preserving them. Dr. Gey went on to cultivate 
more cells which could be used for a variety of medical research. These 
cells proved instrumental in polio research, and they helped establish 
the fields of molecular biology and virology. Henrietta Lacks' cells 
are still used in research today, more than four decades after her 
  Henrietta Lacks' selfless contribution to the field of medicine has 
gone without acknowledgment for too long. Her cells made her immortal: 
through her death, countless others have been saved by the research 
that was made possible through her cell line. It is for this reason 
that I extend my deepest thanks to Henrietta Lacks and her family. I 
sincerely hope her name will also be immortalized as one of courage, 
hope, and strength, and that due recognition will be given to her role 
in medicine and science.