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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Paperback – Mar 8 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (March 8 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781400052189
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400052189
  • ASIN: 1400052181
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.5 x 3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #8,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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Most helpful customer reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By BottinesOrange on Nov. 16 2010
Format: Hardcover
I'm a scientist and have used HeLa cells for many years, with only a vague idea of where they had come from. This terrific book brings a human side to the early days of cell culture and also a fascinating insight into some more modern problems (cell-line contamination) as well as to historical ones (racism and institutionalization), both of which we hope are going away... The book is well-written and obviously a labor of love for both its author and Ms. Lacks's relatives. Thank you for writing this! I'll recommend it to everyone I know.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Columbus on May 22 2010
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book expecting an interesting story about the origin of the HeLa cell line. This the book delivered. However, be aware that the scientific side of the HeLa cells are only very generally explained. This book is not for someone looking to read about cell biology, but rather someone who is interested in:

a) The evolution of ethics in medical research
b) The human faces behind the HeLa cells, Henrietta Lacks and her progeny

If you find yourself interested in any of the above, then this book is for you.

This is definitely a pop-science book, rather than a scientific treatise and so you should approach it as such.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Barbara D. on Jan. 22 2012
Format: Paperback
I had a difficult time putting this book down; it is fascinating, thrilling, intellectually stimulating yet deeply moving as well. Thank goodness Ms. Skloot investigated and recorded the story of Henrietta Lacks; had more time passed, the information and people that assisted in this wonderful investigation into Ms. Lacks' life would have been gone, the story behind this amazing medical phenomenon, lost. It makes one wonder what other stories about interesting, important yet unsung heroes can no longer be written because of the passage of time and the death of people who knew them. I am thankful that Ms. Skloot had the interest and drive to see this investigation through, along with the Lacks family.

The book was a combination of science thriller, mystery novel, and wonderful human-interest story. There are not many times after reading a book that I've felt I've learned about something truly significant, yet I felt this way after reading The Immortal Life of Henrieta Lacks.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. P. L. WOULFE on Dec 31 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a long overdue biography of a woman who unwittingly made a tremendous contribution to medical research. In the days when ethics approval was not required for obtaining patient samples for research purposes, cervical cancer cells from Henrietta Lacks (so-called HeLa cells) were carefully excised and placed into culture media in an attempt to grow these ex vivo. The researchers of the day could not anticipate that her cells would grow vigorously, and continue to grow to this day in numerous labs around the world. At that time, the successful culturing of cells was considered a fantasy because so many cells failed to thrive in culture media, whether obtained from normal or cancerous tissues. The rapidly growing immortalized cells from Henrietta Lacks pre-empted ethical considerations for the patient and her family, since it was not expected that they would actually succeed in cell culture. Moreover, it was not possible to anticipate the enormous wealth of knowledge regarding protein and DNA structure and function that these cells provided. The events that unfolded following the exceptional ability to culture HeLa cells led to unforeseen consequences for the Lacks family as well as numerous researchers and clinicians whose careers were staked on these cells. Rebecca Skloot provides a compassionate and meticulous insight into the Lacks family and their reaction to the generation of HeLa cells. This is a must-read for anyone wishing to understand processes underlying medical ethics and how research has relied on human samples in the past century. It is also essential reading for researchers who have handled HeLa cells (including this reviewer).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kadi Kaljuste on Oct. 8 2011
Format: Paperback
As an artsy, non-science person, I'd never heard of HeLa cells or Henrietta Lacks. And, early into this book, it became clear to me that even the scientists who have been using HeLa cells for research for decades knew little about the woman from whom the cells came. Rebecca Skloot tells the Lacks family story with sensitivity and honesty while at the same time explaining cell science in understandable, lay terms. No small feat. But the most powerful and important questions this story raises are ethical. And they're questions for which we still don't have answers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Pauline on Sept. 3 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a great read, especially if you are keen on biological sciences. I have a science degree and learned all about cells, DNA, cancer and never learned about how we got the cells to study to find out this information. I have never even considered the people behind the cells I studied in university. This book was an eye opener and it is well written and well paced that it keeps your attention. Definitely a learning experience and a book that makes you think about science and also about the field of medicine.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By j's view on Nov. 14 2013
Format: Paperback
Wow! This is the best book I've read this year. It has something for everyone. Ms. Skloot writes so well that the reader lives in her story. The themes range from bio-medical ethics, to racism and poverty, to questions about the responsibility of the medical community toward patients who lack the education necessary to understand their condition and finally to what claims we ought to have toward our own tissues and who can profit from them. This is a book rich in thought-provoking questions. At another level it is also the story of an authour's relationship with a family devastated by the untimely death of their mother and the family's quest to understand who she was and who she continues to be.
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