The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks

The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks
Author: Rebecca Skloot
Publisher: Adelphi
Publication: 2011
Pages: 504 p., Ill.
ISBN / EAN: 9788845926143
(Reading time: 1 - 2 minutes)

Those who work in the biomedical field are familiar with the acronym HeLa, which denotes a cell line of vital importance in research on cancer and many other diseases: special cells, so resistant as to be practically immortal, sold and bought for decades in laboratories all over the world. . But those four letters also contain a disturbing, emblematic story - and above all a person of flesh and blood. Henrietta Lacks worked in the tobacco fields of Virginia, as did her slave ancestors. When he died of a tumor in 1951, the doctors, without bothering to ask for any consent, took a sample of his tissues and soon realized an amazing phenomenon: cancer cells continue to grow outside the body, in the laboratory. From here to commercialization it is a short step, but it will be twenty years before family members discover a truth that is no less incredible than traumatizing: Henrietta is 'immortal', and a billion-dollar industry has grown out of her cells. Rebecca Skloot decided to tell this story, and overcoming mistrust and hostility she managed to get in touch with the Lacks by earning the friendship of Henrietta's daughter, Deborah. Thus was born a book that leads us from a black ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital to the dazzling laboratories where freezers store HeLa cells, from the shacks of Clover, a village populated by slaves and healers, to today's Baltimore.