Sunday, October 9, 2011

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Written by the immensely talented  and gorgeous Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks traces the history of the biotech and gene therapy industries in America and makes it exciting.

Hela cells were used in research studies at Johns Hopkins University, and named after  a so-called donor, Henrietta Lacks, a 31-year-old mother in Maryland. Her cells evidently expanded and divided at an unprecedented speed. They were reproduced  and sent around the world for use in medical experiments. Her cells were used as building blocks  that created new products and ultimately led to the the expansion of the multi-billion-dollar  international pharmaceutical industry.  At the same time, Henrietta's family, after her death, did not make a penny and are currently deeply in debt.

The well-written, entertaining story is about so much more than one family, and yet learning about the Lacks family grounds the book in reality and gives the story urgency. We see how real people's lives were impacted by permissions they did, or did not give, for their tissues to be used in scientific experiments. We learn about how people have given up ownership of  the raw materials, their cells, blood, and body parts, whether voluntarily or not, in  medical procedures around the world.  Read this book to learn useful knowledge about the industry and about the world of medicine.

Listen to Rebecca Skloot describe her book, and be sure to buy it. I stayed up late reading  it, and was sorry when it ended. Don't worry, you will be in good hands when you read her book. She would make a very desirable friend...

Rebecca Skloot

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