Book Club: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
In 1951, a young black American woman died of cancer. Her death changed the history of medicine.
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer whose cancer cells — taken without her knowledge — became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first ‘immortal’ human tissue grown in culture, HeLa cells were — and still are — vital for medical advances such as the development of vaccines and such processes as IVF, cloning and gene mapping, and for uncovering the secrets of cancer and viruses. Yet Henrietta herself remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.
The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, tells the rich, enthralling story of the forgotten woman behind one of the most important tools in modern medicine — and of her descendants, many of whom feel betrayed by the scientific establishment.