Keyboardist-singer Chris Keating explained to Spin magazine that this track was inspired by reading about Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman from Baltimore, who died in 1951 from a rare form of cancer. Her tumors and cells continued to live and grow after she passed away and the subsequent research resulted in the remarkably durable HeLa cell line, named for her first and last initials. "Her tumors were somehow used in the polio vaccine, too, so basically this woman's cells still exist," said Keating. "It's an interesting story. So we turned it into adubbed-out pseudo-science-fiction song!"
Keating first came across the story of Henrietta Lacks, after hearing a Radiolab episode about her. He then read the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, before writing this song.
Guitarist/keyboardist Anand Wilder told Complex magazine: "'Henrietta' went through a lot of changes. You can look at old live footage of how we used to play it and it's much more straightforward. We kind of revamped the beat, and made a more linear song structure. And then at the end, it kind of repeats ad nauseum. It's got some great riffs in the beginning, and a pretty nice emotional build at the end."