When Deborah Lacks learned that her mother's cancer cells had been cloned for research, she thought that hundreds of versions of her mother were alive again and walking the streets of New York.
Those cells, now known as HeLa, were taken involuntarily from a poor black woman named Henrietta Lacks sixty years ago. Their story is in the strange, stark contrast between the monumental scientific advances made from her cell line and the total ignorance, poverty, and alienation of her family. While Henrietta's cells were used to create the polio vaccine, her family was unable to afford health insurance. While scientists used her cells to uncover the link between HPV and cervical cancer, most of her family didn't graduate from high school or understand basic biological processes. Multimillion-dollar industries were built off HeLa; yet Henrietta's descendants live in slums. Perhaps worst of all, while scientists examined every intimate detail of Henrietta's DNA, her daughter never even know her mother's favorite color.
While the history of one of the most enduring and important tools of modern science is fascinating on its own, the complex intersection of ethics, rights, race, culture, family, and humanity is what makes this book truly standout. You don't have to be a science reader to build incredibly personal and powerful relationships with the many people whose lives continue to be affected by the legacy of Henrietta Lacks.
Submitted by Audrey @ Central