The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Paperback)
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DescriptionHer name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells-taken without her knowledge-became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first "immortal" human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they'd weigh more than 50 million metric tons-as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb's effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave. Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the "colored" ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta's small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia-a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo-to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells. Henrietta's family did not learn of her "immortality" until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family-past and present-is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of. Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed
- Published: 08 March 2011
- Format: Paperback 381 pages
- ISBN 13: 9781400052189 ISBN 10: 1400052181
- Sales rank: 1,778
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Reviews for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
- Top review
This is one of the most readable books I have ever come across. The story was all the more intriguing because it is about a real situation full of real people. It has everything in it you could ask for - intrigue, suspense, warmth, humour and medical mysteries unravelled. The story of Henrietta and what she went through in the course of her cancer treatment is agonising and while things have changed for the better in terms of progress in cancer treatments, there hasn't been much change in access to health services by the haves and the have-nots.
Anyone who works in the health field should read this book. I have bought ten of them to give away to people I know from GPs, oncologists, health bureaucrats, pathologists and friends. They have all been very well received.
The writing style is light handed and keeps you interested.
An excellent read that will keep you thinking for a long time. by Andriana Koukariunder review