The Symbols of HeLa

April 7, 2011

Three-color staining of HeLa cells

Image Credit: Invitrogen™

The Muse

When the exact time of Henrietta Lack’s death in 1951 was provided in Rebecca Skloot’s biography, I knew I would be too curious to not look at the natal chart for the birth of the HeLa cell line.  I’m still working this, using the Kozminsky Symbols for a change, however the Sabian Symbols are fascinating too.

My perception is that the natal chart of HeLa, speaks very much to the journey of Dr George Gey, who propagated this immortal cell line, distributing it freely and without compensation to the researchers and laboratories, who did profit from HeLa. 

Speaking of George, reminds me of the symbol for the Transneptunian Zeus at 27° Leo

Kozminsky Symbol

27º Leo: A bleeding hand holding a thorny orange branch on which the fruit is growing.

Denotes one who will be compelled to gain experience through suffering, losses, and deceit. He is sincere and affectionate, and will sacrifice much to help another. He is aided, patronized, and advanced, and from his former sufferings his fame springs. It is a symbol of Approval.

Sabian Symbol

27º Leo: Daybreak – the luminescence of dawn in the eastern sky.

Transforming power of creative impulses as they bring ideas to concrete manifestation. Stirring to opportunity. Soul-power.
 NB: On October 4 1951, when Henrietta Lacks “died” and HeLa was born, the Sun was transiting Leo conjunct the natal Zeus.  The HeLa cell line is propagated from the cancer cells that grow like crabgrass.


 HeLa born on Thursday, 4 October 1951. Baltimore, MD. 

Asclepius, Neptune and IC, all in Libra, share the same degree 19° Libra:

Kozminsky Symbol

A lion rising from the blood of a wounded soldier.

Denotes one of powerful and active mind and magical knowledge who knows the extent of his own force and ability, and, knowing it, he concentrates and suffers to give birth to an ideal of strength and nobleness combined-a strength and nobleness fitted to govern men and to demonstrate even to the weak that the concretion of abilities is the key to individual greatness. It is a symbol of Mastery.

Sabian Symbol

19º Libra: A gang of robbers in hiding.

Protest against the perpetuation of unearned social privileges and wealth. Repudiation of bondage. Challenge to custom.

Hygiea and North Node in Pisces, in the 8th House, share 10° Pisces:

Kozminsky Symbol

10º Pisces: A man sweeping together quicksilver which has fallen from a dish and has scattered in all directions.

Denotes one of an active, volatile mind, alert and restless, possessing knowledge and the power to acquire knowledge. There is, however, danger of his ideas leaving him and being scattered in parts where they are not appreciated. When he fully recognizes the gift with which he has been blessed he will by concentration draw it unto himself and bestow it on those who will hold it to advantage. It is a symbol of Teaching.

Sabian Symbol

10º Pisces: An aviator in the clouds.

Transcendence of normal problems. Gaining of celestial responsibilities. Consummation of the highest ideals. Coronation

Separation anxiety

The Daughter

Deborah Lacks first learned of her mother’s legacy when, at age 23, she was contacted by researchers performing genetic tests on her family, according to Rebecca Skloot, author of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” The book, released yesterday, traces the legacy of a medical breakthrough from the donor tissue and the tissue donor’s family to technological and legal innovations. “It’s so much more than a science book,” Skloot says. “It’s about the people involved in the science.”

Henrietta Lacks, an African-American farmer from Roanoke Virginia, died of cervical cancer in 1951 at age 31. A sample of cancer cells taken from Henrietta during treatment — without her knowledge — grew in culture and produced the first immortal cell line, known as HeLa (for Henrietta’s initials). HeLa cells are ubiquitous in the biological sciences due to their so-called immortal properties, such as being able to grow or divide indefinitely and withstand freezing. The cells were used in creating the polio vaccine and have also been involved in controversial experiments that gave rise to bioethics legislation.

Henrietta died when Deborah was two years old, and Deborah didn’t know anything about HeLa cells until a researcher called the family in 1973 to ask if they would donate blood for genetic testing. The researchers wanted to find genetic markers with which to identify the HeLa line. HeLa cells had contaminated other cell cultures and researchers hoped that DNA from the Lacks family would help sort out what was what.

[Deborah died in 2009, before the book about her mother was published. A very troubled woman, Deborah died peacefully at home of a heart attack, smiling.  Her family felt she was glad to be with her elder sister Elsie, who died in 1955,  and  her mother, Henrietta. ]

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