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Posted by on Sep 29, 2011 in Books and Movies | 0 comments

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Wandering over to the Science section of the book store (I do not discriminate against sections!) I found this book, The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, and I am so glad I read it!!! This book is amazing, and you will learn so much about science, without feeling overwhelmed. The story is entirely personal and political, I loved every minute of it, and I feel smarter!

The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks chronicles the history of HeLa cells, one of the most widely used cells in science. HeLa cells are malignant cancer cells that have been used from everything to testing radiation to creating the HPV vaccine. They have shot HeLa cells into space to see how they react to zero gravity, and they have learned about how cancer reacts to different treatment. These cells have become famous in medical history, and they originated from one woman: Henrietta Lacks.

Lacks was an African American woman growing up poor in the deep south when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Her family only had a few months with her before she died. Her family barely knew what she died of, let alone that her doctor had lanced off part of her tumors to use in his research, resulting in HeLa cells. The real controversy comes into play years later when millions of people around the globe are using HeLa and profiting off of it, but her own lineage can’t afford rent or medical bills. The story follows not only HeLa, but the tragic story of the Lacks family, and the story of how Rebecce Skloot became very involved with the Lacks family and spent over 10 years of her life writing this book.

This work of non fiction is magnificent, and I learned so much. The book raises very interesting and though-provoking questions, not to mention a vast history on the issues of medical consent. Medical science has a very shady history, and unfortunately it is impossible to know how many families were harmed due to these unethical practices. While I learned a lot about cells and science, there is a true human element to this story, and in the end you will be so thankful that Skloot was the one to tell it. I highly recommend anyone with even the most remote interest in science pick it up! Absolutely enthralling!

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