Imagine being a woman who has Cancer and going to the doctor to get treated. Imagine a doctor obtaining a medical sample of your competent cells and cancerous cells… And then imagine your cells becoming the world famous immortal cells.
Sounds crazy, right? It might, but it is an authentic story that happened to no one else but Henrietta Lacks, and that it is one (if not the most) famous story in the recent scient history.
You see, the name Henrietta Lacks carries a significant amount of sorrow, problems and political debate, something that you can’t merely outlook when you are talking about her. Yes, she’s the main reason modern medicine is so successful today and the reason why scientist have been able to develop some vaccines and tested their experiments, and yet, her story is devastating in many ways than one.
Author Rebecca Skloot took it upon herself to tell two stories in this book. First, the overwhelming and heartbreaking story of Henrietta Lacks and her descendants, and second, the history of the multi-billionaire laboratories who are still using her cells up until this day. It’s a novel that tells to drastically different truths while miraculously keeping an objective opinion about both.
First, there’s the story about Henrietta Lacks, an African American women who unknowingly gave her cells away to a scientist called George Otto Gey, who later turned this samples into what is known today as HeLa cells, or immortal cells, due to the fact they can keep reproducing themselves over and over infinitely.
From then on, the story of this African American woman and the research laboratories intermix forever on. You see, Henrietta died shortly after those samples were pretty much stolen from her, and even though the HeLa cells changed science, medicine and biology forever, either her or her family ever received any recognition or monetary compensation for it. Yes, that’s true.
The book takes us on a very emotional ride about what happened to Henrietta Lacks meant for her, her family and science. The contrast of Henrietta’s family, the fact that they were also illegally and unknowingly used as subjects for scientific research and never got to see any of it, and the famous research laboratories across the world who have become a millionaire thanks to the HeLa cells, is shocking.
Gasping the fact that Henrietta Lacks’ cells are well alive and going through thousands and thousands of experiments on a daily basis, while she is dead and her family is suffering, is something tough. However, this book is a must read, that’s for sure.