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Henrietta Lacks visit

Two sets of BGS Scholars have recently visited the statue of Henrietta Lacks in the Royal Fort Gardens.

Henrietta was an African-American woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951. Unbeknown to her or her family, a sample of her healthy tissue taken while she was still alive was found to have an extraordinary capacity to survive outside the human body. These cells, nicknamed HeLa cells (from her name, Henrietta Lacks) were shared among researchers and they helped lead to discoveries in many fields, including cancer, immunology and infectious disease. One of their most recent applications has been in research for COVID-19 vaccines.

In 2020 the University of Bristol commissioned a life-size statue of Henrietta from Bristolian Helen Wilson-Roe. This was, at the time of unveiling, the first statue of a black woman made by a black woman for a public space in the UK. Her family were present at the unveiling, which marks an important milestone in recognition that some institutions profited commercially from Henrietta’s legacy without consent of acknowledgment.

In this photo BGS Year 10 Scholars pay tribute to Henrietta and her importance for scientific research.