Indiana State University Newsroom

Center for Genomic Advocacy to present informed consent discussion

September 23, 2013

The Center for Genomic Advocacy at Indiana State University will present a discussion panel event "From the Science of HeLa Cells to Consent."

The event is scheduled for Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. at Cunningham Memorial Library. It is free and open for the public to attend.

The HeLa cells have led to important advances in medical history, such as the polio vaccination as well as gene mapping; however, Henrietta Lacks didn't know that her cells were taken, grown and distributed to scientists around the world. A board of panelists, made up of ISU professors, will discuss vital aspects from the book, "The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks." Discussions for the event will include the science of cell cultures, the importance of informed consent laws and the issues that connect them.

"Everybody is afraid of identity theft in terms of credit card information, etc. However, we learned with Henrietta Lacks that people's true identity -- their DNA -- is also at risk. The Center for Genomic Advocacy was developed to investigate such wicked problems of society. The presentation and panel discussion focuses on the basics of HeLa cells and progresses to issues of genomic science in today's society that revolve around consent," said Rusty Gonser, associate professor of biology and director of the center.

Nathan Myers, assistant professor of political science, will focus on informed consent during his presentation.

"Informed consent was a major issue in the story of Henrietta Lacks, as Lacks was never informed about how her cells were being used, and her family only became aware decades after her death. The story of Henrietta Lacks is a powerful illustration of why proper informed consent practices are so important in research to protect the rights of patients and/or research subjects," Myers said.

The center is one of eight programs selected for funding as part of the university's $5 million Unbounded Possibilities initiative designed to support innovative programs that set Indiana State apart from other colleges and universities.

For more information on the Center for Genomic Advocacy and the event visit:

Contact: Rusty Gonser, associate professor of biology and director, Center for Genomic Advocacy, Indiana State University, 812-237-2395 or

Writer: Sadie All, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or