Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

ISBN-10: 1400052181
ISBN-13: 9781400052189
Edition: 2011
Authors: Rebecca Skloot
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Description: Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells-taken without her knowledge-became one of the most important tools in medicine. The  More...

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Book details

List price: $16.00
Copyright year: 2011
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 3/8/2011
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 400
Size: 5.25" wide x 8.00" long x 1.25" tall
Weight: 0.836
Language: English

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells-taken without her knowledge-became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first "immortal" human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they would weigh more than 50 million metric tons-as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb's effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave. Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the "colored" ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta's small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia-a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo-to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells. Henrietta's family did not learn of her "immortality" until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family-past and present-is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of. Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family-especially Henrietta's daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother's cells. She was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Did it hurt her when researchers infected her cells with viruses and shot them into space? What happened to her sister, Elsie, who died in a mental institution at the age of fifteen? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn't her children afford health insurance? Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.

A Few Words About This Book
Prologue: The Woman in the Photograph
Deborah's Voice
Life
The Exam … 1951
Clover … 1920-1942
Diagnosis and Treatment … 1951
The Birth of HeLa … 1951
�Blackness Be Spreadin All Inside� … 1951
�Lady's on the Phone� … 1999
The Death and Life of Cell Culture … 1951
�A Miserable Specimen� … 1951
Turner Station … 1999
The Other Side of the Tracks … 1999
�The Devil of Pain Itself� … 1951
Death
The Storm … 1951
The HeLa Factory … 1951-1953
Helen Lane … 1953-1954
�Too Young to Remember� … 1951-1965
�Spending Eternity in the Same Place� … 1999
Illegal, Immoral, and Deplorable … 1954-1966
�Strangest Hybrid� … 1960-1966
�The Most Critical Time on This Earth Is Now� … 1966-1973
The HeLa Bomb … 1966
Night Doctors … 2000
�The Fame She So Richly Deserves� … 1970-1973
Immortality
�It's Alive� … 1973-1974
�Least They Can Do� … 1975
�Who Told You You Could Sell My Spleen?� … 1976-1988
Breach of Privacy … 1980-1985
The Secret of Immortality … 1984-1995
After London … 1996-1999
A Village of Henriettas … 2000
Zakariyya … 2000
Hela, Goddess of Death … 2000-2001
�All That's My Mother� … 2001
The Hospital for the Negro Insane … 2001
The Medical Records … 2001
Soul Cleansing … 2001
Heavenly Bodies … 2001
�Nothing to Be Scared About� … 2001
The Long Road to Clover … 2009
Where They Are Now
About the Henrietta Lacks Foundation
Afterword
Cast of Characters
Timeline
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index
Reading Group Guide

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