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 60 years.
Henrietta Lacks was a young black woman whose cervical cancer cells became one of the most important factors in bringing about important scientific and medical advancements in the 20th century. Her family, however, did not know that researchers were using Henrietta's cells in their experiments until much later. When the family learned the truth, they endured turmoil and heartache in the decades that followed.
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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
More than six decades ago, doctors took cells from a cancer patient in Baltimore. She died soon afterward, forgotten to everyone except her family. But her cells became immortal and famous – known as HeLa. HeLa cells were the first to grow reliably in a laboratory, and they’re still the most widely used today. HeLa cells are responsible for everything from the Polio vaccine to gene mapping. They've ridden into space and into oblivion on atomic weapons. In a new book, Rebecca Skloot tells the story of the woman from whom HeLa cells were taken without permission, and what happened to her family after she died. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is part biography and part investigation into racial politics and medical ethics.