Genetics

Sequencing HeLa Genome Raising Privacy Concerns

Most widely used cell line in biology came from a woman who never gave consent for anything. Neither did descendants

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Last week, scientists announced they had sequenced the full genome of the most widely used human cell line in biology, the "HeLa" cells, and published the results on the web. But the descendents of the woman from whom the cells originated were never consulted before the genetic information was made public, and thus never gave their consent to its release.

Morning Edition's Renee Montagne spoke to Rebecca Skloot, author of the best-selling bookThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which chronicles the cells and the family tied to them. Skloot also wrote an op-ed in Sunday's New York Times about the need for international standards to protect the privacy of genetic data.