Last night I was at a lecture at the university with guest Rebecca Skloot. She's the author of the NYT best-seller The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
Who is Henrietta Lacks? And why is she immortal?
Henrietta is an African American woman - a poor tobacco farmer - who died decades ago. But before she did, doctors took her cells without asking. Those cells never died. In fact, they were spread around the world and they launched a medical revolution, spawning a multimillion-dollar industry.
More than twenty years later, her children found out.
Henrietta's cells became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t even afford health insurance.
This book a riveting expose on the history of “HeLa” – the first immortal human cells grown in culture, without Henrietta’s permission – and the inextricable 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.
Even if you aren't a science geek, this is fascinating stuff and the book reads like fiction.
Rebecca put her life virtually on hold for a decade to research and write this book - befriending, educating and helping Henrietta's family along the way. It seems that all great successes start with a sacrifical investment of time and passion.
What are you currently sacrificing for and investing in?
And if that's too hard or too personal to answer, what are you currently reading that's good?