Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Welcome to our blog!

"She used to take care of me when my polio got bad. She always did say she wanted to fix it. She couldn't help me cause I had it before she got sick, but she saw how bad it got. I imagine that's why she used them cells to help get rid of it for other folks" (Skloot 81).  -Cootie

Little did she know, Henrietta would give a gift to the world that would advance modern medicine and save countless numbers of lives. Before HeLa cells helped in the discovery of the polio vaccine in 1952, between 13,000 and 20,000 polio cases occured each year (Before the age of vaccination). The purpose of this blog is to explore the polio disease and the impact HeLa cells had on the discovery of the polio vaccine.

HeLa Cells

HeLa cells were taken from Henrietta Lacks, and have been used for countless research projects.

What is the history of the polio vaccine?

Jonas Salk used HeLa cells in his research when developing a vaccine for polio.

discover polio

Polio is a contagious disease caused by an intestinal virus that may attack nerve cells of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms include fever, headache, sore throat, and vomiting. Some victims develop neurological complications, including stiffness of the neck and back, weak muscles, pain in the joints, and paralysis of one or more limbs or respiratory muscles. In severe cases it may be fatal, due to respiratory paralysis.

Polio can be spread through contact with contaminated feces (for example, by changing an infected baby’s diapers) or through airborne droplets, in food, or in water. The virus enters the body by nose or mouth, then travels to the intestines where it incubates. Next, it enters the bloodstream where Aanti-polio antibodies are produced. In most cases, this stops the progression of the virus and 30 the individual gains permanent immunity against the disease. Figure 1. Polio cases skyrocketed after diphtheria and per- tussis vaccines were introduced.Many people mistakenly believe that anyone who contracts polio will become paralyzed or die. However, in most infections 20 caused by polio there are few distinctive symptoms. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

HeLa Cell and Polio Vaccine

Henrietta's cells were given the name HeLa using the first two letters of her first and last name. In 1954, three years after Mrs. Lacks demise the HeLa cells were used by Jonas Salk to develop a vaccine for poilo.

                                                                         Polio Virus
Over a decade has passed and Henrietta Lacks cells are still alive, and still being used in research for cancer, AIDS, gene mapping and the effects of radiation and toxic substances on humans. The HeLa cells assisted chemist in research to test human sensitivity to tape, cosmetics, glue and many other products.

Polio Virus

Children waiting to receive the polio vaccine
polio line

Little boy with Polio collecting for the Polio Building Fund
polio boy

Jonas Salk giving polio vaccine to child
polio vaccination

Dr. Jonas Salk - Time Magazine
Jonas Salk on the cover of Time Magazine
Time magazine

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How did Jonas Salk use HeLa?

When Jonas Salk developed a vaccine, he needed to test it on a huge scale to ensure its safety. These tests involved the inoculation of 2 million children. Afterwards blood samples from the children were mixed with cultured cells and the poliovirus. Prior to HeLa, Salk used monkey cells in his tests. However, the cells died in the process, making the tests extremely expensive. These tests, directed by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, required a more economical cell line. Gey donated Henrietta's cells, which could grow very rapidly at a low cost. It was discovered, too, that HeLa cells were easily affected by the poliovirus, making them all the more suitable for testing (Skloot 93-95). Because of HeLa cells, large samples of the polio vaccine could be tested and countless lives were saved.