There probably is not a single person reading this who has not benefited in some way from Henrietta Lacks. Yet there is a good chance you have never heard the name Henrietta Lacks before. What if I told you that Henrietta Lacks had a part in some of the biggest medical and scientific breakthroughs since the 1950's? Discoveries and advances such as the polio vaccine, cancer research, AIDS research, the effects of radiation, gene mapping, and countless others. What if I told you she has been to outer space, blown up by an atom bomb, and has been to almost every country in the world? Would you believe it? Well it's true. So how do we not know the name Henrietta Lacks?
Henrietta Lacks was an African American women in her early thirties who died of cervical cancer in 1951. In the 1950's scientists had been interested in studying cells, cell development, and in particular cancer. Scientist would grow human cells in labs and study the cells in dishes. The problem during this time was that the cell cultures would inevitably die. Usually in a relatively short period of time. This did not allow scientist enough time to study how a cell might develop into cancer, or what happens if your introduce a medication to a cell culture. On top of not being able to do that research it was a very time consuming process to continually grow new cell cultures. Enter Henrietta Lacks into the equation. Henrietta went to Johns Hopkins Hospital for a lump she felt in her cervix. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer and a biopsy was taken. Unfortunately she quickly passed away from her cervical cancer. A scientist at Johns Hopkins had been taking patients cancer cells and trying to growth them in culture. When they took Henrietta's cells something amazing happened. They never stopped growing. In fact they are still growing today. Since Henrietta's cells (the famous HeLa cells) kept continually growing, scientist were now able to study cells like never before and a scientific and medical boom occurred. Great! what a lovely story out of a tragedy. Except that part were no one ever asked Henrietta if they could take her cells and use them. No one every informed the family that their mothers cells might have been the biggest scientific advancement in the last century and certainly no one told the family that the selling of their others cells is a multi-million dollar business for bio-medical companies.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is one of those extremely interesting, medical, ethical, historical books. I loved the first 2/3 of the book. The last 1/3 of the book was too much about the authors story and struggles to write the book for my tastes, but I enjoyed the book none the less. Great read for anyone in the medical or science field, history lovers, or frankly anyone who likes a good story that tried to navigate the grey areas of life.
I love everything about books. The feel of the page between your fingers, the sound of a book spine cracking, even the smell of an old dust jacket. Looking to share that passion with others.