In 1951, a biopsy was performed on Henrietta Lacks as part of her treatment for cervical cancer. Henrietta died a few months later, but cells collected during the biopsy are being used for research study today.
Click on the image for a closer look.
Wired put together this graphic tracing the history of the HeLa cell line—Henrietta's cells- to show how it has nudged along biological research through the years. The cell line is known as an "immortal line" due to its ability to survive and proliferate indefinitely, and this is exactly why it is so significant for research. I only wish this woman could've known that part of her would live on to make a such a difference.
Note that Wired's graphic was based on information from a book called The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot who spent ten years researching Henrietta and the HeLa cell line in order to put together this incredible book which will be available on February 2. [Wired and Wikipedia]