“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”
A moderated discussion by the son and granddaughter of the woman who is the subject of this book, followed by a book signing. Lacks’ cells have been used over the past 60-plus years in countless scientific pursuits worldwide. “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skloot, describes how cells were taken without her permission and became the first immortal cell line when they reproduced successfully and rapidly. Named “HeLa” cells - derived from the first two letters of her names - they were used in the development of vaccines, cloning, gene mapping and in vitro fertilization. They were sent on space missions to test how cells react to zero gravity. Lacks died at 31 of cervical cancer in Baltimore in 1951. That HeLa cells came from her wasn’t made public until the 1970s. Her family discovered that vials of Henrietta Lacks’ cells had become the first human biological materials ever bought and sold as part of a multi-billion-dollar industry. In her book, Rebecca Skloot explores the family’s story. Some profits from the book go to a foundation to support families and victims of medical ethics violations. The Lacks family has never benefited from the commercialization of HeLa cells.