Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Henrietta Lacks' story opens minds

Laura Mariani, a graduate student in neuroscience, helped arrange the recent Emory visit of author Rebecca Skloot, whose new book tells the human story behind the HeLa cell line. Mariani wrote about Skloot's visit on her blog, "Neurotypical?"

Following is an exerpt from her posting:

"As a scientist, I've known about HeLa for a long time, and I was even told a brief version of the Henrietta Lacks story in my college biology lab, but I'd never felt personally connected to this chapter of scientific history. Reading "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" made me imagine how I'd feel if I learned that part of my father, who died of cancer when I was 17, was alive in a lab somewhere. It made me look up the origins of other immortalized cell lines that I have used, like SH-SY5Y cells. (Those cells were derived from a bone marrow sample from an anonymous four-year-old girl with metastatic neuroblastoma -- "After progressive debilitation and continued growth of tumor, the patient died in January 1971.") It made me re-evaluate every sarcastic conversation I've had with my fellow grad students about our required ethics training seminars. (Suggestion to ethics seminar organizers: Put this book on the syllabus.)"

Read the full account of Skloot's visit on Mariani's blog.

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