Solar Eclipse Prompts Outdoor Gatherings

VRC deputy director Dr. Barney Graham (r) shows 3-D model to Bill Gates at recent visit.
NCBI’s Dr. Laks Iyer (l) helps a woman use the telescope he brought to view the eclipse.

Even though NIH got only a tad more than 80 percent “obscuration” from the nationwide solar eclipse on Aug. 21, it still became an occasion for outdoor conviviality in all quadrants of campus.

As the moon’s shadow invaded the face of the sun at 1:17 p.m.—it cut diagonally across the star’s disk from roughly the 2 o’clock to the 8 o’clock position—one could stroll up Center Dr. past Bldgs. 1, 50 and Natcher and see almost no one gazing upward.

At a little past 1:30, a man with a homemade cardboard viewing apparatus appeared in front of Bldg. 38A.

“I didn’t know my modeling career wasn’t over yet,” joked Mike Krzywanos of the National Library of Medicine’s Office of Computer and Communications Systems. He had made the box earlier that day, and was testing it out with colleague Nick Napoli.

Like many NIH’ers, Napoli tried to capture the eclipse on his cell phone, with mixed results.

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NIH, Family of Henrietta Lacks Work to Advance Science, Protect Privacy

Jeri Lacks-Whye
Jeri Lacks-Whye

Henrietta Lacks is survived not only by descendants, but also by another legacy: millions of lives saved by research using cancer cells taken from her body without her knowledge.

Two of Lacks’ grandchildren, Jeri Lacks-Whye and David Lacks Jr., joined NIH director Dr. Francis Collins on the Masur Auditorium stage for a conversation recently about the unique collaboration between the Lacks family and NIH.

In February 1951, Lacks, an African-American woman, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Doctors took cells from a biopsy of her tumor and—without her knowledge or consent—cultured them. She passed away later that year at age 31.

Hers were the first human cells to live and grow outside the body in culture. That cell line was denoted “HeLa”—“He” for Henrietta and “La” for Lacks. Her cells have contributed to some of the most important medical advances of the past half-century, including development of the polio vaccine.

Most people weren’t aware of the origin of HeLa cells until 2010, when author Rebecca Skloot published The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a bestselling book. Family members became identifiable. The story was later adapted into a television film starring Oprah Winfrey.

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