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Even Rebecca Skloot would tell you this story isn't really about her. It's about a woman named Henrietta Lacks. Back in 1951, Henrietta was a poor African-American woman dying of cancer inside John Hopkins hospital in Baltimore.
During her time there scientists took some of her cells without her knowledge - common practice at the time.
But there was nothing common about Henrietta's cells. They multiplied and multiplied. And never stopped. They became the first "immortal" human cells grown in a lab. And they're still alive today. Even though Henrietta's been dead for 60 years. But that's not all. Her cells have become one of the most important tools in medicine.
They were essential to cancer research and developing the polio vaccine, as well as advances in gene mapping, cloning and in-vitro fertilization. They've been bought and sold in the trillions and launched a multi-million-dollar industry.
Yet Henrietta's family never saw any of the profits. Some can't even afford health care treatments made possible by their mother's cells. Rebecca Skloot spent more than 10 years researching and writing this story. And her book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks became an instant best seller. It's an amazing story of a discovery that saved thousands of lives, but nearly destroyed a family.