Henrietta Lox’s family, with abnormal cells, demands justice

Posted on July 30, 2021 at 01:02

The family of Henrietta Lox, an African-American who revolutionized modern medicine with cells taken without her knowledge, announced on Thursday that they would like to file a complaint against the drug groups that used it.

“They have been using their cells for 70 years and the deficient family has received nothing in return for this theft,” his granddaughter Kimberly Locks told a news conference.

“She treated her like a laboratory rat, she was not human, she had no family,” she continued, “demanding justice for this racist and unethical treatment.”

In 1951, Henrietta Locks, 31, died of cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. During attempts to treat her, cells were taken from her tumor and sent to a researcher without her knowing anything.

He soon realized that his cells, renamed Hella cells, had extraordinary properties: they could grow outside the human body, in vitro, and multiply indefinitely.

Since then they have helped laboratories around the world develop vaccines – especially against polio – for cancer treatments and some cloning techniques, an industry worth billions of dollars.

The family of Henrietta Lox knew nothing of its progress until the 1970s, when it really understood its purpose, Rebecca Schlott, bestseller of 2010 “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Locks”.

– “Reluctance” –

“The Lox family has been exploited for a long time and they say it’s over,” his grandson Alfred Carter said Thursday, announcing he had been selected to appear in court by a prominent civil rights lawyer. Ben Crump.

Crump, known for protecting relatives of police victims, including George Floyd, said he would file a complaint Oct. 4 to mark the 70th anniversary of the controversial speculation.

“Endorsing the Black Lives Matter movement and its other struggles,” Black lives must be given due value in the United States.

His colleague Christopher Seeker said that “those who benefited from the use of Hella cells and all those who did not agree with the family to compensate them” would complain.

In 2013, an agreement was reached between the descendants of Henrietta Lox and Johns Hopkins University to have two family members sit on a panel approving the future uses of Hella cells. But the deal did not include any financial components.

“Johns Hopkins has never sold or benefited from the invention or distribution of Hela cells and does not own the rights to these cells,” the company on its site notes.

Ellen Wright Clayton, a professor of biomedical ethics and society at the University of Vanderbilt, says it may be difficult for the Lox family to “recover” in court.

U.S. courts have so far “been very reluctant to grant humans some control over their models,” he recalled in an interview with AFP.

But “this will open up an interesting debate,” he predicts: this regulation will focus on the “tension between the general desire to promote research and the right to control individuals’ personal data” in an increasingly limited society.