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Reviews Written by
M. P. L. WOULFE (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)
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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by Rebecca Skloot
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.00
68 used & new from CDN$ 6.00

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Long overdue biography, Dec 31 2011
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).

The Andromeda Strain
The Andromeda Strain
by Michael Crichton
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
42 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sham, Feb. 1 2009
This book is a sham. It frustrates me because it tries to appear credible in its approach with scientific jargon and figures, but it's out of date and it's highly implausible. As a biomedical researcher, I can see right through Crichton's efforts to make this "virus" believable. It just falls down in so many places. Why would an organism try to survive in the upper levels of the Earth's atmosphere? The UV radiation load from the sun is so intense at that level that very little in the way of complex biomolecules can survive it. The virus can survive on basic elements and doesn't produce any waste. It has a hexagonal structure that apparently self-replicates (no DNA or protein). It can instantly kill every single exposed human being (within 2 sec) by transmission through air, but it is not present on dead bodies after they have been infected. At present, there is not one single organism on Earth (out of the millions that we have discovered) that can come close to this type of infectious agent. Even the most deadly viruses (Ebola and the like) take much longer to kill human beings, and certainly don't kill every single person exposed to them (thanks to the marvel of genetic diversity). What kind of fear-mongering voodoo is this?

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