This book is following the story of a famous woman named Henrietta Lacks, who is known for her cancer cells. Lacks was born on August 1,1990 into a poor, black family. She grew up in Virginia, where her family mostly worked as tobacco farmers. After marriage, she moved to Baltimore where she had five kids. Henrietta Lacks was a thirty-year-old, African American that reached out for help from the John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore regarding her health issues she had been experiencing. Lacks had multiple different health conditions that were not treated until doctors took a closer look into her reports. This young lady believed there was a knot on her cervix, which appeared to be something more serious than a knot. When doctors received results from the biopsy, they had found that Lack's had stage one cervix cancer. Doctors mentioned that if she doesn't start her treatments soon, the cancer can spread and become more severe. Soon after, Henrietta began her treatments with radium and x-ray therapy.
Before treatments began on Lacks, there were cancerous cells/tissue that were removed from cervix in order to do more research on these cells. The cells/tissue was then sent to the George Gey's lab at the John Hopkins Hospital, where Gey was in charge of the tissue culture department at that hospital. During this experiment, researchers wanted to find some way for cells to divide continuously in the lab. Gey found that the cells that were taken from Lack had begun to grow fast in the laboratory being able to create the first immortal cell line. This breakthrough in science was kept confidential and the Lacks family was not informed of the discovery from the tissue sample obtained from Henrietta. However, it was after Henrietta's death that the Lacks family found out about cells. This mystery was uncovered when one the siblings met a researcher who told them about HeLa cells which were found from Henrietta. The family still had no clue about HeLa cell's significance and the massive industry that was created due to their discovery. Finding out about the discovery of HeLa cells was very heartbreaking since the family believed that Henrietta was still alive, however she wasn't, and the science world was making profit from Lack's cells. Once the family found out about the HeLa Cells, researchers called the family to try and draw some blood from them in order to study Henrietta's genome. The family was still poor and was not able to get any type of insurance to visit a doctor, they continuously struggled with the death of their mother and knowing the science industry was making a profit from their mother's cancerous cells.
The HeLa Cells have helped with treatments for many different diseases around the world. Lacks cells have affected many people around the world, however no one knew about this until now. HeLa Cells is one of the most popular cell lines around the world because they are easy to grow and store. This book helped explained how HeLa Cells came about. Before Rebecca Skloot wrote this book, many people did not know where the cells came from nor did they know about the background of Henrietta. Skloot was able to gain more information from talking to Lacks family and how they felt about this. Journals, articles, and other news related papers only focused on the cells themselves and did not focus on how and where they got the cells from. In the healthcare field today, doctors are not able to do anything without the patients consent or the family's consent if the patient is not stable enough to give the consent.
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