Rebecca Skloot, the author of the recently published "Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," talked to Stephen Colbert last night about the first person to have her cells preserved after her death.
Henrietta Lacks, a poor tobacco farmer in the 1950s, unknowingly had a doctor who took her cells from a tumor when she came in with cervical cancer. Since then, her cells, still alive, have been used to develop a polio vaccine, they've been taken on the first space missions, they were the first human cells to be cloned, and some of the first genes to be mapped. However, Lacks's family, Skloot said, remain so poor that they cannot afford health care. "Can they afford irony care?" Stephen commented.
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