More than 80 J. Sargeant Reynolds students, faculty, staff, and guests enjoyed the Around the World through Books discussion of The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks on Thursday, March 29.
Carol Rodi from Reynolds’ School of Nursing and Allied Health and biology professor Janet Adams led a lively discussion about the poignant, true-life story, written by Rebecca Skloot, of the contributions to science and medicine from cells taken from Henrietta Lacks in the 1950s. Originally from Clover, Virginia, Henrietta Lacks underwent cancer treatment at Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore, where some of her cancer cells were removed and tested. The cells continued to survive and for more than 50 years have offered opportunities for ongoing research. In the 1970s the Lacks family learned about the existence of Henrietta’s cells, and as the cells had begun making a significant amount of money for labs that marketed them, ethical, business, and legal questions arose around the rights of the family to compensation for the cells.
Known as HeLa cells, the cells continue to be widely used in research and health care today, and the ethical, business, and legal issues around cellular research are also ongoing.
At Thursday night’s event in the Gallery on Parham Road Campus the presenters and audience discussed some of these issues, including questions of informed consent and how it has changed over the years, the funding and business of modern scientific cellular research, and ethical concerns surrounding these topics.
Sponsored by the Multicultural Enrichment Council, this was final event in this year’s book discussion series.