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Celebrating Henrietta Lacks

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On February 2, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by ScienceBlogger Rebecca Skloot was officially published. If you haven’t heard, everyone who has read this book has wonderful things to say. Dr. Isis on On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess declares it “the single best piece of non-fiction I have ever read. It is one of the most important stories of the last 100 years and should be required reading for every scientist and physician-in-training.” Henrietta Lacks was a poor Southern tobacco farmer whose cervical cancer cells gave rise to the first immortal human cell line. Long after she herself died, HeLa cells continued to multiply, playing a critical role in several scientific breakthroughs. But as Ed Yong describes on Not Exactly Rocket Science, Henrietta never consented to this use of her cells, and her family went 20 years without knowing that part of her was still alive. These days, HeLa is ubiquitous, as “50 million tonnes of these cells have been grown in churning vats of liquid all over the world.” Scicurious on Neurotopia calls the book “a labor of love:” “a love of science, a love of history, and over all things, a love of people.” PalMD on The White Coat Underground values the book for its insight into “the legal and ethical background of human tissue culture.” And Abel Pharmboy on Terra Sigillata emphasizes that “Skloot’s book is of far broader appeal than just the scientific community.” As much about humanity as it is about science, this is a story no one should miss.

Links below the fold.