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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars never look at HeLa cells the same way again
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...
Published on Nov. 16 2010 by BottinesOrange

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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Less a science book, more focused on cultural studies
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...
Published on May 22 2010 by Columbus


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars never look at HeLa cells the same way again, Nov. 16 2010
By 
BottinesOrange (Montreal, Canada) - See all my reviews
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Audio is best medium for this book..., Jan. 10 2011
Any review by wife or myself of this book in the print version would be high - it is an exceptional book in its content. The manner in which it has been researched and then dialogued is just short of brilliant. However, to listen to "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" in our car while driving is a special occasion indeed.

Unlike a novel, there is no need to remember the characters, the plot line and the passage. We, the listeners are being treated to a verbal exposé of illuminating, amazing, albeit shameful scientific facts behind a medical methodology that has aided and provided benefit for millions of people in the need of medical solutions and aid.

The author insinuates herself into the book in a playful but purposeful manner which lends immediate personality to the facts as if a story is being told; it is in fact a story - just a true one. Whenever we stop and turn the engine off to get ready to disembark from our SUV, we almost always pause and listen to a conclusion of the particular topic or thought of the author Rebecca Skloot. When we walk away, the interactions within the book leave us with plenty to talk about if others daily routines do not have the power to intercept and give priority to... In print it would be a book 'one would not want to put down', in the car it is one to take on a l-o-o-n-g journey.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Long overdue biography, Dec 31 2011
By 
M. P. L. WOULFE (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written, a wonderful blend of science, mystery & human interest!, Jan. 22 2012
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This review is from: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (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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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Less a science book, more focused on cultural studies, May 22 2010
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, Jan. 8 2011
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a very interesting and well written book; it was a pleasure to read. In it, Rebecca Skloot basically documents the family history of Henriatta Lacks family; how the HeLa cell line was born and more importantly how the family was totally unaware that the cell line even existed until 2 decades later, and even then the information they were provided with was scarce.

The book also provides an interesting perspective on the evolution of medical practice and ethics over the last half century. Throughout the book, Skloot provides a very balanced stance on the main issues involved which greatly increases the appeal of the book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes you think, Oct. 8 2011
By 
Kadi Kaljuste (Toronto, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (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
4.0 out of 5 stars The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Sept. 3 2011
This review is from: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written, engaging, March 29 2010
By 
Angela (Vancouver BC) - See all my reviews
This is an engaging book, and very well written. This is a must-read for anyone working with cells in culture. The history alone makes you appreciate how far things have come and how much easier our lives are thanks to these people. The ethical issues are thought-provoking. Rebecca Skloot does a fantastic job of presenting both sides of the argument. Also, she is able to present complex scientific ideas in a simple, easy to understand manner. I highly recommend this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What does this book not have?, Nov. 14 2013
This review is from: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (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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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (Paperback - March 8 2011)
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