The HBO movie "The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks," starring Oprah Winfrey, tells the story of one of the most important parts of black history, not only for women of color but for the history of all people of color. In 1951, an African-American woman's cells became the biggest medical breakthrough for all medicine in history. Unfortunately, this breakthrough did not come ethically. Reports by and How Stuff Works provided most of the information for this article.

Who is 'Helen Lane?'

"Helen Lane" is who they referred to Henrietta Lacks when she passed away in 1951 from cervical cancer.

This was a name that many researchers grew to recognize and see a lot while practicing medicine back during the 50s and 60s. But there were some loopholes here that no one paid attention to until the year of 1998, after the release of Rebecca Skloot's book "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks." See, Helen Lane was not the true name of the woman who changed medical research, like the public was made to believe. This was just a cover-up in order for medical researchers to use Mrs. Lacks' cancer cells without ethical signed permission from Lacks herself.

The importance of the 'HeLa cells'

What made Lacks' cancer cells so unique and highly important for researchers is the fact that they are immortal.

They don't die, they just keep multiplying on and on. This allowed doctors to test her cells against potential medicines and vaccines for not only cancer treatments but almost all medical conditions we have ever seen or experienced. Her cells were one of a kind and had never been seen before during this time, so of course, doctors everywhere wanted to keep them and preserve them and also use them for their own research.

The sick part about the "HeLa cells," as doctors referred to them as, was that they were taken from the body of Lacks without her permission. The Roanoke, Virginia born woman went into the Johns Hopkins hospital on January 29, 1951, complaining of severe stomach pains and vaginal bleeding to which she was then diagnosed with cervical cancer.

After many radiation treatments and tests were done, Lacks unfortunately passed away in October of 1951 from her condition, but not before doctors removed some of her cancer cells without her permission through a biopsy test.

The developments of new medicine through 'HeLa'

Even though Lacks' cells were taken from her unethically in the worst way possible, she is the reason for many different medicines that are still helping people all over the world today. Yes, the "HeLa cells" are still being multiplied and used as we speak to provide medicine for others. Jonas Salk, an American physician and medical researcher from the University of Pittsburgh, developed the very first polio vaccine just four years after Lacks' death.

Technically speaking, Henrietta Lacks - a black woman, is the reason we have a polio vaccine today. Her cells have even been used for tuberculosis research, HIV/Aids research, and even the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).