Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

by Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta Lacks was the donor of the HeLa cell. This was the first human cell to be replicated and continually replicate outside of a person, thus providing the basis for much scientific research leading to many life-saving medical cures. (in layman's terms)

I liked how Ms. Skloot gave very detailed information regarding the HeLa cell and its advances in science. She conveyed the message without using difficult terminology, making the book accessible to everyone. She also managed to present two sides of a difficult and controversial subject. She told the story of the Lacks family and their frustration, misunderstandings and hurt throughout the scientific discovery process. She also explained how current practices (at the time) led to the family's discontent.

One troubling aspect for me throughout the story was the impression I had that the Lacks family mainly wanted to be monetarily compensated for the use of these cells in scientific research. Today, that would be common and expected, however at the time of cell extraction, Dr. Gey followed ordinary procedures and practices. When his experiment was successful, Dr. Gey freely gave the cells to any researcher; not using them for personal gain, only looking to possible advances in medicine and science.

I think this book has something for everyone; science, relationships, tragedies and triumphs.

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