The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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Click for availability and more information The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
Extensively praised since its publication in 2010, Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, combines a recounting of both an incredible medical development involving research on the cells taken from one human being with the effect of the use of those cells for scientific purposes on the family of the person whose cells were taken from her for this research. At the center of this incredibly fascinating book, is Henrietta Lacks, who was born in Roanoke, Virginia in 1920. In her late 20's, she developed an extremely destructive form of cervical cancer. Prior to her death in 1951, human cells were removed from her body to be used for research purposes by a doctor at Johns Hopkins without her knowledge or permission. Those cells became known as HeLa cells; so named by using the first two letters of Henrietta's first and last name. The HeLa cells became unique for they could be grown in cultures and used to study various diseases and other areas of scientific research.

It was as a young student that Skloot became aware of the existence of these cells and she was to become enthralled by their history and use within the scientific community. At the early stages of her writing career, she began to meticulously research the story of these cells. Concerned with discovering all she could about the person whose cells became the center of the HeLa research, she tracked down the former husbands, children, grandchildren and assorted family members of Henrietta Lacks. The legacy of the Hela cells on Henrietta's family was a source of great mystery, frustration, resentment and pride within that family.

The HeLa cell story itself at times might make readers question if they are reading fact or fiction. Yet, thanks to Skloot's clear and very well documented writing, the HeLa cell story, as well as Skloot's telling of the Lacks's family involvement with that story, both come vividly alive and make for very readable and extremely interesting reading. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is highly recommended, especially for those readers who have an interest in the biological sciences and the remarkable achievements in research the scientific community has made in the past decades using the HeLa cells.

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This page contains a single entry published on March 16, 2012 3:34 PM.

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