Life, Monetized

The American Prospect | Nov 17, 2011

By Osagie K. Obasagie

In 2010, Rebecca Skloot published The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a New York Times bestseller about a poor black woman in the late stages of cancer in 1950s Baltimore whose doctor removed cervical tissue from her without her knowledge. By remaining viable outside of Lacks’s body, the cells became “immortal” and thus quite valuable; scientists using them have been able to pursue research that would have been unimaginable beforehand, leading to achievements such as the polio vaccine and advances against cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

Skloot’s book captivated readers by revealing the story of exploitation behind the development of what have become known as “HeLa cells.”

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