Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Henrietta Lacks

I am reading a book that I would highly recommend to you all. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is the book you should place on your to read list!

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance.

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. Henrietta is buried in an unmarked grave somewhere near her mother.

I understand that Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball are making a HBO movie about this fascinating story.


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