Anaximperator blog

Blogging against alternative cancer treatments

A Wonderful Book Was Written: Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks, a poor African American tobacco farmer from Virginia, was just  30 years old when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. The cancer turned out to be extremely aggressive and 8 months later, at only 31, Henrietta Lacks died on 4 October 1951.

Scientists had been trying to keep cancer cells alive outside the body, but this proved very difficult and most cultures didn’t last longer than a few weeks. But the cancer cells of Henrietta Lacks were so strong that they were virtually immortal and it was possible to grow them for long periods.

Henrietta Lacks’s cancer cells were harvested, used and sold without the knowledge of her family and without any form of acknowledgement or credit. The cells were named HeLa cells (Henrietta Lacks) and are still being used today. The HeLa cells generated huge profits over time, but not for the descendants of Henrietta Lacks, who still cannot afford health insurance.

HeLa cells have not just been used for cancer research, but also for the development of the polio vaccine, for AIDS research, to assess the effects of radiation and for countless other scientific aims. Should you want to see live HeLa cells: there’s a segment with them in this video.

Now, at last, the story of Henrietta Lacks has been uncovered by Rebecca Skloot in her wonderful book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Buy it, read it and be awed, outraged and moved to tears by the unforgettable life of Henrietta Lacks.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks launches on 2 February 2010 and can be pre-ordered on Amazon (UK or US)

Support the Henrietta Lacks Foundation

See also:
Ed Young on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
Smithsonian.com: Henrietta Lacks’s ‘immortal cells’

4 responses to “A Wonderful Book Was Written: Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

  1. beatis January 26, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Really? Are you sure it isn’t your cookie tin? http://www.disneylicious.com/i_01/tin_disneyland_003.jpg

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention A Wonderful Book Has Been Written: Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks « Anaximperator blog -- Topsy.com

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