You may not have heard of Henrietta Lacks. But if you are in the medical research industry, you definitely know her name. Lacks died of cervical cancer back in 1951. After she died, doctors realized that her cells could thrive in a lab. That was a first. In the decades since, Henrietta’s “cells have been the subject of more than 74,000 studies, many of which have yielded profound insights into cell biology, vaccines, in vitro fertilization and cancer.” It wasn’t until 1973 that anyone in Lack’s family had any idea that her cells were being used in this way. And as of this week, the family has finally been given some say in how Lacks’ cells are used. The cells in question are more than sixty years old, but their use provides an insight into the privacy and personal issues related to studying genomes.

+ If you want to learn more about this story, I’ve heard great things about Rebecca Skloot’s book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.