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Why This Book Matters:

The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks tells the story of how powerful cells killed one woman, while the research of her cells provided scientists with a plan to help others keep theirs.

The Big Takeaways:

  1. Henrietta, a black woman who lived in poverty, fell ill and passed away from an overpowerful type of cancer.
    1. If This woman’s cancer would become a medical anomaly, forcing the medical community to change the way they thought about cells.
  2. After Henrietta died, her cells, nicknamed “HeLa,” stayed alive.
    1. The aggressiveness of Henrietta’s cells due to her cancer allowed them to stay alive outside of her body, enabling further research that was once impossible.
  3. Scientists were able to duplicate HeLa cells to understand complex illnesses like cancer and polio better.
    1. HeLa cells were able to reproduce quickly, making them an excellent tool for research.
  4. HeLa cells were remembered while Henrietta Lack was forgotten.
    1. Even after HeLa cells provided scientists with a great opportunity to better understand disease, the source of such a wonder was soon forgotten.
  5. The Lacks family had a hard time following Henrietta’s death.
    1. The scientists working with HeLa cells wanted to take samples from Henrietta’s family, going as far as to obtain their contact information at Johns Hopkins. Black communities are still wary of medical professionals to this day.

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