In The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks (Crown, $26), Rebecca Skloot skillfully weaves the story of a poor black tobacco farmer treated for cervical cancer in the 1950s with the persistent controversy of tissue ownership and the sale of biomedical products. The effect of Henrietta’s “immortality” on her Baltimore family, especially her daughter Deborah, will resonate with readers. Skloot carefully balances Henrietta’s story with the history of biomedical research connecting the unauthorized use of Henrietta’s cells to contemporary biomedical conundrums. Without her or her family’s knowledge, Henrietta’s cell line, called HeLa, were disseminated widely in the scientific community and employed for countless experiments. This is at once a moving personal story, an astounding piece of journalism, and an absorbing yet lucid look into the world of scientific research.
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