Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells - taken without her knowledge - become one of the most important tools in modern medicine. Taken in 1951, these cells became the first immortal human cell line ever grown in culture. They ...
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells - taken without her knowledge - become one of the most important tools in modern medicine. Taken in 1951, these cells became the first immortal human cell line ever grown in culture. They were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered the secrets of cancer, viruses and the effects of the atom bomb; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilisation, cloning, and gene mapping, and have been bought and sold by the billions. Put together, her cells would now weigh more than 22 million tons and placed end-to-end would wrap around the earth five times. Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the "coloured" wards of Johns Hopkins in the 1950s to poverty stricken tenements of East Baltimore today, where Henrietta's children are unable to afford health insurance, and struggle with feelings of pride, fear and betrayal. Their story is inextricably linked to the birth of bioethics, the rise of multi-billion dollar biotech industry, and the legal battles that determine if we own our bodies. Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.
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This story manages to combine science and human interest story and socio-cultural and racial issues all into one fascinating read. The reader learns a lot about about cell biology without it being a lecture, and unraveling the story of the family of Henrietta Lacks without preaching or pointing fingers, but still listing all the salient facts. Well written.
Dec 26, 2013
She is still Saving Lives
Henrietta Lack was a poor southern black with a large extended family. When she became ill with cancer, her tumors were used in research, and the tissues have replicated themselves for decades. They are still used in breast cancer research and are the basis for the discovery of the BRCA 1, and 2 genes, for which woman can now be tested, and preventive surgery done. It is a line of genetic breast cancer genes that run in families. This story is personal, fascinating, and still in the news- since Henrietta's family had no idea scientists around the world were using her tissue for research...and exposing their personal DNA to the world, as well as making millions off the sale of research tissue. I highly recommend it, and have given it to friends whose daughters tested positive. very readable and interesting as well as a hot topic today.
Jul 10, 2013
enjoyed the book. writer did a good job of telling the story without filters... i would recommend this book to young people interested in health related work definitely, and for general reading as well.
Mar 21, 2013
This is a fascinating book about people, family, science and the future of medical treatment. The author is gifted in keeping both the personal and scientific clear and engrossing.
Jan 3, 2013
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Tremendous read. Very well written. fascinated by this story since reading about it in the news papers about 1972. Didn't know the book had been written until I stumbled upon it on Alibris. Amazing thing is I didn't realise how like Nazi Germany the Southern states of the USA were except instead of carrying out murders and medical experiments on Jews, the US was doing the same to black people.
Came as quite a shock to find out that Harry Truman was the first president of the US to make it a crime to lynch black citizens,
Publishers Weekly, 2009-10-05 Science journalist Skloot makes a remarkable debut with this multilayered story about "faith, science, journalism, and grace." It is also a tale of medical wonders and medical arrogance, racism, poverty and the bond that grows, sometimes painfully, between two very different women-Skloot and Deborah Lacks-sharing an obsession to learn about Deborah's mother, Henrietta, and her magical, immortal cells. Henrietta Lacks was a 31-year-old black mother of five in Baltimore when she died of cervical cancer in 1951. Without her knowledge, doctors treating her at Johns Hopkins took tissue samples from her cervix for research. They spawned the first viable, indeed miraculously productive, cell line-known as HeLa. These cells have aided in medical discoveries from the polio vaccine to AIDS treatments. What Skloot so poignantly portrays is the devastating impact Henrietta's death and the eventual importance of her cells had on her husband and children. Skloot's portraits of Deborah, her father and brothers are so vibrant and immediate they recall Adrian Nicole LeBlanc's Random Family. Writing in plain, clear prose, Skloot avoids melodrama and makes no judgments. Letting people and events speak for themselves, Skloot tells a rich, resonant tale of modern science, the wonders it can perform and how easily it can exploit society's most vulnerable people. (Feb.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
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