Dr Oz: Who are HeLa Cells Named After?
As part of his continued discussion with Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrn about Henrietta Lacks, the woman after whom HeLa cells were named, Dr Oz was curious about the scientific and medical impact Henrietta had on all of our lives. As he explained, looking more directly at Rose, the emotional impact is quite obvious in the film, but he was curious as to whether she was surprised by the science involved.
What Are HeLa Cells Used For?
Rose explained that Henrietta has “literally touched all of our lives” if you’ve known anyone who has suffered from cancer, HIV, or undergone in-vitro fertilization as well as herpes, the flu, and polio. As Oprah stated, just about anyone who is taking any kind of medicine has been affected by HeLa cells, and too many people don’t know it.
“There are a lot of racist people out there with Henrietta’s cells,” Oprah stated.
Dr Oz: Why Are HeLa Cells Important?
Dr Oz then created an animation for Oprah, who fortunately loves his animations. Dr Oz explained that normal, thermal cells look like pretty regular cells. In Henrietta’s case, cancer cells were taken from her cervix, sliced up, put into drums, and spun around. In a normal situation, the cells live for a day, or two, or maybe three. But Henrietta’s cells kept reproducing twenty times faster which, as Oprah stated, shocked everybody. Because the cells kept reproducing, it made them immortal.
But what did that mean for science?
Dr Oz: Immortal Cells
Because the cells were immortal, it meant scientists were suddenly able to things they weren’t able to before because the cells didn’t live long enough. HeLa cells have been used in cosmetic testing, cancer research, space missions, leukemia treatments, blindness research, polio vaccines, radiation testing, gene mapping, IVF, and more! There are now enough of Henrietta’s cells to go around the world three times, which is 350 million feet of cells!
Dr Oz then surprised Oprah with a “little Henrietta” of her own. She was handed a little vial of Henrietta’s actual cells, which truly blew her mind. But to take things a step further, they were then able to take a real look at the cells. Within each cell you could see the nucleus that contained Henrietta’s DNA.