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HeLa Cell Line

The HeLa cell line was the first immortal human cell line that George Otto Gey, Margaret Gey, and Mary Kucibek first isolated from Henrietta Lacks and developed at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1951. An immortal human cell line is a cluster of cells that continuously multiply on their own outside of the human from which they originated. Scientists use immortal human cell lines in their research to investigate how cells function in humans.

Format: Articles

Subject: Technologies, Experiments, People, Ethics

Thesis: The Hwang Woo-Suk Scandal and the Development of Bioethics in South Korea

In 2004, the South Korean geneticist Woo-Suk Hwang published what was widely regarded as the most important research finding in biotechnology that year. In the prestigious American journal Science, he claimed that he had succeeded in cloning a human blastocyst, which is an embryo in its early developmental stages (Hwang et al. 2004). A year later, in a second Science article, he made the earth-shattering announcement that he had derived eleven embryonic stem cell lines using his cloning technique (Hwang et al. 2005). The international scientific community was stunned.

Format: Essays and Theses

Subject: Ethics, People

Harry Clay Sharp (1870-1940)

Harry Clay Sharp was a surgeon who performed one of the first recorded vasectomies with the purpose of sterilizing a patient. Sterilization is the practice that makes a person unable to reproduce, and vasectomy accomplishes that by severing the vasa deferentia, the sperm-carrying tubes in the male reproductive system. Historically, sterilization procedures have varied in techniques, goals, and risks, but Sharp’s method of vasectomy allowed restriction of a patient’s reproductive functions without significantly affecting other bodily functions.

Format: Articles

Subject: Legal, Ethics, People, Organizations, Technologies

Henrietta Lacks (1920–1951)

Henrietta Lacks, born Loretta Pleasant, had terminal cervical cancer in 1951, and was diagnosed at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where researchers collected and stored her cancer cells. Those cells went on to become the first immortal human cell line, which the researchers named HeLa. An immortal cell line is an atypical cluster of cells that continuously multiply on their own outside of the organism from which they came, often due to a mutation.

Format: Articles

Subject: People, Ethics