Wednesday, May 16, 2018

WASHINGTON—A portrait of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were taken without her consent and widely used in groundbreaking research, will be installed at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery.

The portrait was painted by Kadir Nelson and jointly acquired by the gallery and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Lacks died of cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins University, where researchers discovered her cells reproduced indefinitely in test tubes.

HeLa cells have since contributed to the treatment of thousands of patients and many scientific breakthroughs, from the polio vaccine to genetic technology, even as her family struggled without health care.

Lacks remained virtually unknown until a journalist spent years investigating and writing a bestseller, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”