Books, life the universe

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Reading . . . .

Milly Johnson's A Summer Fling is one of those books where you hate turning the last page. Feel good factor in spades and women whose friendship with one another is just as important as a date with the man they're interested in. If you want something to curl up with on a wet weekend - in summer or not - read it. This is chick lit about 'real' people in a real place. You could imagine meeting them in the supermarket queue.

I've just started reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot which is absolutely gripping reading. Henrietta was an African-American woman who died in 1951. She had cancer of the cervix - which is not that unusual - but the type of cancer was unusual. For a long time scientists had been trying without success to grow human cells in laboratory conditions. They could sometimes get them to grow for a short time but then they died. The cells taken from Henrietta's tumour however were different - they multiplied at an alarming rate and weren't too fussy about what they grew in or the conditions they were stored under. For the first time human cells could be used for research studies because cancer cells share many of the characteristics of human cells.

These cells - referred to as HeLa cells - were sent to labs all over the world and have helped - among other things - to test the original polio vaccine. The book is a fascinating study of Henrietta's life and the way the immortality of her cells has affected her family. I'm about half way through and finding it fascinating.

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