Essay on Rebecca Skloot'sThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Essay on Rebecca Skloot'sThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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Cancer is a genetic disorder characterized by the excessive proliferation of cells (Kocher slide 4). The genetic disease itself is not inherited however, but is dependent on a number of factors, which include inherited mutations, induced mutations, and environmental contributions (Kocher slide 8). The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot examines the life of a cervical cancer patient, named Henrietta Lacks, whose malignant tumors would become major contributors to the field of medical research. Today, HeLa research is a global process that involves many fronts of genetic and medical research.
Rebecca Skloot paints a picture of Lacks’s life just as she approached her death and much of the controversy that surrounded the collection of her cancerous cells. These cells, which came to be termed “HeLa cells” are used today in medical research. These HeLa cells have “upregulated” telomerase that elongate the telomeric ends of chromosomes and hinder the process of apoptosis and result in “unlimited cycles of replication” (Kocher slide 33). These observations have led to HeLa cells being referred to as immortal. Many cancer cells exhibit this upregulated telomerase characteristic. As a result, it contributes to the malignant phenotype.
Henrietta Lacks was an African American woman that lived in Baltimore, MD in the 1950s. The novel begins with the year 1951. In this year, Henrietta Lacks begins to have pain that she describes as a “knot” in her womb. The time period in which Lacks was experiencing these symptoms was still a time in which segregation and racism were rampant in American society. For this reason, blacks were only evaluated at certain hospitals. Lacks visits Dr. Jones at Johns Hopkins Hospital, which is inconv...


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...iewed and amended to protect individuals from the practices that Henrietta Lacks and the men from the Tuskegee study succumbed to.



Works Cited

"U.S. Public Health Service Study at Tuskegee." U.S. Public Health Service Study at Tuskegee. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2013. .

Understanding Health Information Privacy." Health Information Privacy. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2013. .

Pierce, Benjamin A. Genetics: A Conceptual Approach. 4th ed. New York City: W.H. Freeman and Company, n.d. Print.

Kocher, Tom, PhD. "Lecture 24: Cancer Genetics." The University of Maryland, College Park. 3 Dec. 2013. Speech.

Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. New York: Broadway Books, 2011. Print

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