Posts Tagged ‘Henrietta Lacks’

In ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,’ Rebecca Skloot describes how one woman’s cancer yielded a strange and important legacy

September 22, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 22, 2015

Recently, I finished reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot’s 2010 nonfiction account of the personal and scientific journeys experienced by a Maryland women’s family and cells.

Lacks was the great-granddaughter of slave owners who grew up on what had once been a plantation in Southern Virginia. She died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in 1951 due to an unusually aggressive strain of cervical cancer. Lacks was only 31.

Her story, and her family’s story, might have been lost to history but for two reasons. One is that doctors at the hospital took a sample of the cancerous cells in her body, found that they grew prolifically and soon shared them widely with scientists around the nation and the world. The easily cultivated cells, dubbed HeLa, have been called one of the most important developments in medicine in the 20th century.

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