Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (#32)

When a poor black woman named Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer in the '50's, doctors took a sample of her cells without permission and discovered to their amazement that these cells grew rapidly and without limits. Soon cell samples were distributed widely in the scientific community and led to many important discoveries such as the cure for polio. The cells, known as "Hela" grew and multiplied, went around the world, were shot into space, commonly used in laboratories everywhere, and becoming quite famous. At the same time Henrietta's young family suffered many troubles without her, unable to even afford heath care at the very institutions profiting from her cells which had become a multimillion dollar industry.
This book is both a mystery and a scientific read. The author tracked down the history of the Hela cells while learning about Henrietta's family. Well done.

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