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Ben Moser

January 21, 2017

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You'll see this plate on a white Ford. It stands for a former Bluffton business, Dunifon Oil.

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"The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" Maple Crest book discussion March 26

A discussion of Rebecca Skloot's book "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" will take place in the family room of Maple Crest Senior Living Village on Monday, March 26, at 3 p.m. Maple Crest Senior Living Village is located at 700 Maple Crest Ct., Bluffton.

Copies of the book are available at Bluffton Public Library, 145 S. Main St., Bluffton.

Summary

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells-taken without her knowledge-became one of the most important tools in medicine.

The first "immortal" human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than 60 years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they'd weigh more than 50 million metric tons-as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb's effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.