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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by: (author)
4.00 1390
Her 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,... show more
Her 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 in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother’s cells. She was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Did it hurt her when researchers infected her cells with viruses and shot them into space? What happened to her sister, Elsie, who died in a mental institution at the age of fifteen? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance?           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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Format: hardcover
ISBN: 9781400052172 (1400052173)
ASIN: 1400052173
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Pages no: 370
Edition language: English
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Community Reviews
Rachel's books
Rachel's books rated it
4.0 The Immortal Live of Henrietta Lacks
Henrietta Lacks was an amazing woman who was unknown. Because of her, life saving changes happened. And, yes, lots of money was made too. This highlighted issues with medical ethics and consent. I'm so glad this book exists. It tells an important story. I liked how it was laid out. Not dry, boring l...
Lydia's Page
Lydia's Page rated it
4.0
This is such a fascinating read. It strikes a good balance of medical history and colorful narrative, bringing to life the story of a poor black woman with remarkable, regenerating cells, and her family forgotten and uncompensated by science.
BrokenTune
BrokenTune rated it
3.0 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Ok, the last few chapters have turned decidedly towards a focus on human interest. I thought this was going to be a 5* star read, but the part with the evangelism was the beginning of a downward slope.....Damn.
By Singing Light
By Singing Light rated it
0.0
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I’m reading this one ages after everyone else. I’d like to find some reactions from an African-American perspective, although I did think Skloot did a reasonably good job at acknowledging her own status as an outsider.
Angel's Book Reviews 2.0
Angel's Book Reviews 2.0 rated it
5.0 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
79. THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS, BY REBECCA SKLOOTRecommended by Michelle.This book should be obligatory reading for all biology-related students and researchers. Being a med student myself, I can safely say I’ll probably be a better professional for reading it.I knew, of course, about the ...
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