Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Congratulations, Dr. Lacks.

NPR aired a news story yesterday about an honorary doctorate of public service from Morgan State University posthumously awarded to Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman whose cancer cells have been used to create an "immortal cell line" for medical research. Lacks died of cervical cancer in 1951 at the age of 31. She never knew that her cells had been taken (nor did she give permission for their use), but her unwitting "donation" has lead to breakthroughs in treating diseases like polio, AIDS, and cancer. Ms. Lacks's story was told in Rebecca Skloot's best-selling 2010 nonfiction book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which is being developed as a film produced by Oprah Winfrey and HBO.

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