The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks
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In 1951, a young woman from Baltimore died of cancer. Her death changed medical science for ever. 'One of the most graceful and moving non-fiction books I've read in a very long time' Dwight Garner, New York Times 'Skloot's book is wonderful -deeply felt, gracefully written, sharply reported. It is a story about science but, much more, about life.' Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer whose cancer cells -taken without her knowledge -became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first 'immortal' human tissue grown in culture, HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the effects of the atom bomb; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta herself remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave. Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey in search of Henrietta's story, from the 'coloured' ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live, and struggle with the legacy of her cells. Full of warmth and questing intelligence, 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.
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