HeLa – more than just a cell line.

March 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

In trying to remember if I’d ever read a non-fiction book I realized that of course I had, and, actually, that most were about science. But none have gripped me in the same way as the book I just finished. In just over 24 hours I had turned the last page of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and realised why it received such critical acclaim.

I tend not to enjoy harping on about a good book – I want to appreciate them for what they are; not dissect their every sentence, hunting for hidden meanings whose beauty and subtleties are only destroyed when you try to describe them.

But this book deserves every ounce of praise and every award it is given.

It describes the fascinating story of the woman whose cells have lived on for longer outside her body than she ever did herself. They have been flown into space, blown up in nuclear bombs and had just about every conceivable disease injected into them. They helped establish cell culture techniques and equipment; develop a vaccine for polio and unlocked some of the secrets of the world’s biggest killers.

Some of Henrietta Lacks' immortal cells

Some of Henrietta Lacks' immortal cells

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