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The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks

“Only cells that had been transformed by a virus or a genetic mutation had the potential to become immortal”

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks ~ Rebecca Skloot 

This book will make your brain work on overdrive. When I started reading it, my knowledge of science and biology was more or less based on hours of my teenage years watching Medical Detectives and Grey’s Anatomy and I’ve literally come out of it feeling like I can hold my own in a discussion. It is a biography based on the life of Henrietta Lacks and her family after her death; she was an African American woman who died in the 1950’s as a result of Cervical cancer. Her doctors who at the time had taken tissue samples of the cancerous growth were able to cultivate the cells into the first line of “immortal cells” which they named HeLa. HeLa survives in billions today; the cells have multiplied over the last fifty years and it isn’t a far cry to assume that it has touched all our lives.

A few Factoids:

  • HeLa cells because of their immortal nature have been used by scientists all over the world for research
  • Research conducted on HeLa cells was the reason that a vaccine for Polio was finally released to the public
  • HeLa cells have been in space

Why you should read it:

  • The book is incredibly packed with useful information
  • The untold story of Henrietta Lacks and her family

Why you shouldn’t read it:

  • A tedious reading process, not meant as light reading on a one hour flight to attend your best friend’s wedding