While scientists and academics are the ones who tackle astonishing feats of engineering, delve deep into space and time, and find new ways to help humans live longer, healthier lives, it’s a truism that academic writing can be dull. Which is why it’s such a triumph that The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Scoot, has been such a huge success. It’s a wonderful, entertaining, engagingly informative book for everyone. Here’s more from The Science Museum:
1 August 2022 marks 102 years since Henrietta Lacks was born. Assistant Curator Harriet Jackson takes a closer look at her profound impact on modern medicine and reflects on the importance of informed consent and who benefits from scientific research.
Without Henrietta Lacks, we would not have HeLa cells – the first ‘immortal’ human cell line. These cells were ‘immortal’ in the sense that they continued to divide and reproduce in a laboratory which made them hugely useful for scientific research. Important medical advances like IVF and the polio vaccine were made possible because of research using HeLa cells. However, these cells were originally taken from Henrietta, a young Black woman, without her consent when she was being treated for cervical cancer in 1951. This anniversary is an opportunity to recognise Henrietta’s significance as well as to reflect on the importance of informed consent and who benefits from scientific research.
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