Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot | Science News

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Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

A new book tells the story of the unknown woman behind the famous cells

By
11:22am, March 12, 2010

Crown Publishers, 2010, 369 p., $26.

Combining careful reporting with vivid narration, science writer Rebecca Skloot describes how cancerous cells growing in the cervix of a poor black tobacco farmer named Henrietta Lacks changed the face of modern medical science.

In the book, Skloot expertly explains the science behind the cells and their significance, but more importantly, she makes it clear that the story is not just about the cells’ utility to scientists. It’s the story of the unknown woman behind the famous cells.

A dime-sized sample of Lacks’ cells, sliced away in 1951 without permission, quickly became an invaluable research tool. Unlike normal cells that stop dividing soon after they leave the body, these cancer cells have a special genetic structure that allows them to live on forever. Even now, almost 60 years after

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