Medical research relies significantly on human cells grown in the laboratory as a basis for evaluating the functionalities of cells and testing various theories regarding the causes and their respective treatment of ailments. The cell lines required in the laboratory should be immortal, in the sense that they can exhibit indefinite growth, split into numerous batches for use by various scientists, and frozen for long periods (Skloot 85). During 1951, the first immortal cell was discovered using a tissue sample obtained from a woman suffering from cervical cancer. The cells were referred to as HeLa cells, which later become a valuable tool in the field of medical research. In her book titled The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot explores the source of HeLa cells, presumed to be Henrietta Lacks and provides a comprehensive overview of the impact of the cell line on medical research. In light of this view, this paper is a personal response to the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, with a primary focus on the discovery of the immortal cells and its impacts on the medical discipline. Skloot makes use of an authoritative tone when advocating for ethical considerations during bioresearch, which is equally justified considering the circumstances revolving around the discovery of HeLa cells.
Discovery of HeLa Cells
It is evident from Skloot’s work that the discovery of HeLa cells provided opportunities for numerous landmarks in scientific research, which included the use of the immortal cells in cloning, mapping of genes and vitro fertilization. This was due to the capability of the HeLa cells to duplicate for an indefinite period, and due to its number of chromosomes that are different from humans.
From a personal standpoint, the discovery of the HeLa cells played an integral role in the creation of various opportunities for scientific and medical research, and the creation of new treatments for various ailments. For instance, the immortal HeLa cells have been used in numerous laboratories globally to facilitate numerous research discoveries. After announcing the discovery of the HeLa cell line by Dr. Gey, the cell line was used in the propagation of the poliovirus, which was a landmark in the creation of polio vaccines. Since the discovery of the immortal HeLa cells, they have been used in the propagation and study of numerous viruses (Skloot 129). Despite the ethical implications associated with the discovery of immortal HeLa cells, they have made considerable contributions to medical and scientific research. The significance of the HeLa cells in medical research can be attributed to their capability to disintegrate indefinitely without losing its genomic stability. The National Library of Medicine reports that approximately 61,900 studies have been conducted using the HeLa cells, which have played an integral part in the understanding of diseases using molecular biology.
Impacts of HeLa Cells on Medical Research
The discovery of the immortal HeLa cells had significant impacts on the field of medical research, including its significant contributions to cell and molecular biology research, and an increase in awareness of bioethics when undertaking biological research. Since the initial use of HeLa cells to propagate the vaccine for poliovirus, its discovery has facilitated a number of medical research that are of significant benefit to humankind. An undisputable fact is that the HeLa cells facilitated the creation of human-animal hybrid cells during 1965. In addition, HeLa cells facilitated the seeing of human chromosomes during 1953. The discovery of HeLa cells also resulted into significant advances in cell culture techniques, which subsequently resulted in the conception of the earliest test tube infant during 1978 (Skloot 202). From an individual viewpoint, the discovery of HeLa cells, as outlined by Rebecca Skloot, played an integral role in fostering medical research that helped in the elimination of human suffering. The discovery of immortal HeLa cells is a significant landmark in medical research.
The second significant impact outlined by Rebecca Skloot in relation to the discovery of the immortal HeLa cells is the ethical issues underlying medical research. In light of this view, it is evident that the samples that facilitated the development of HeLa cells were obtained from Henrietta Lacks without her consent. Additionally, the family did not benefit from this scientific discovery. The lesson gathered from the book regarding the ethics of biomedical research is that the samples obtained for research in a laboratory usually involve human beings. A lot of modern medical research entails the use of biological tissue obtained from human beings, and scientists do not consider the human cells as animate tools. As a result, the test subjects are not considered during medical research. In light of this view, HeLa cells were the first human animate materials to be sold, which facilitated the creation of a multi-billion industry, yet Lacks family did not benefit from the scientific discovery. The point of argument is that medical research should take into consideration the underlying ethical issues when dealing with animate samples obtained from human beings. The motives of medical research might be for the better of humanity, but the issues regarding consent and ethical research should not be ignored (Skloot 148).
Rebecca Skloot demonstrated the significance of medical research in saving humanity, especially in relation to the discovery of the HeLa cells. It is uncontestable that the discovery of the immortal HeLa cells was a significant landmark in medical research, because it helped in the creation of numerous cures for viral diseases such as polio and provided opportunities for further scientific research aimed at eliminating human suffering. Despite the good intents of the discovery of the immortal HeLa cells, there are ethical issues arising from the research. This does not imply that bioresearch is bad; rather, it is important for ethical issues to be taken into account when undertaking medical research that involves the use of animate human samples. It is vital for the the researchers to acquire the approval of the subject prior to any action. The authoritative tone used by Rebecca Skloot is justified in advocating for ethical issues during bioresearch.