The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Oct 26, 2010

henriettalacks.jpgThis very “readable” biography should be a must-read for all biology and medical students. HeLa cells, taken from Henrietta Lacks when she was in treatment for cervical cancer in 1951, are still alive and have been used in developing the polio vaccine, in vitro fertilization, cloning, gene mapping and much more. They are still in use and it is estimated that if all the HeLa cells grown were piled together they would exceed 50 million metric tons. This is the story of Henrietta and her family. She grew up and worked the same land as her slave ancestors. The author did a massive amount of research - living, working and traveling with Henrietta’s daughter , Deborah - to uncover the hidden story of Henrietta’s life and the contribution of the her cells. Those cells were the first human cells to live in a laboratory outside the donor’s body. The book is a commentary on the racism of the 1950’s – especially in the South, and the impossible task of learning information that the medical community did not was released.

Reviewed by Library Staff