Thursday, April 01, 2010

Rebecca Skloot on the Colbert Report

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Rebecca Skloot
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In that moment, reading those passages, I understood completely how some of the Lackses could believe, without doubt, that Henrietta had been chosen by the Lord to become an immortal being. If you believe the Bible is the literal truth, the immortality of Henrietta's cells makes perfect sense. Of course they were growing and surviving decades after her death, of course they floated through the air, and of course they'd led to cures for diseases and been launched into space. Angels are like that. The Bible tells us so.

For Deborah and her family--and surely many others in the world--that answer was so much more concrete than the explanation offered by science: that the immortality of Henrietta's cells had something to do with her telomeres and how HPV interacted with her DNA. The idea that God chose Henrietta as an angel who would be reborn as immortal cells made a lot more sense to them than the explanation Deborah had read years earlier in Victor McKusick's genetics book, with its clinical talk of HeLa's "atypical histology" and "unusually malignant behavior." It used phrases like "the tumor's singularity" and called the cells "a reservoir of morphologic, biochemical, and other information."

Jesus told his followers, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never die." Plain, simple, to the point.

--Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks


  1. Fascinating! I've heard about the cells before. I've just added the book to my TBR list.

  2. You're gonna like it. . .

  3. Anonymous11:28 PM

    Great actually captures a few of the important themes from the book. And she's got a great sense of humor! Thanks for the link.


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