FROM ZERO TO HERO: the immortal life of an (un)known woman

TITLE: The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks

AUTHOR: Rebecca Skloot

AVAILABLE: English and Italian

How much time did you spent on  biology school book studying the brick of life, the cell? How many times have you heard carelessly  about new discoveries of biology thanks to some immortal cellular lines? How many times have you asked yourself about who donate their cells for the science? If your answers are a lot, sometimes and never, please continue reading this review and then run to the library or a bookshop.

USA,1958: a black woman, Henrietta Lacks, dies because of a uterin cervix cancer. She wasn’t the first and won’t be the last woman who will face to this type of ordeal. During one of her last medical examination, doctors collected a sample of tumoral cells for some laboratory tests. At that time there weren’t any strict laws about the collection of biological samples for medicine, least of all if your skin had got  a great concentration of melanine .Henrietta Lacks and her husband

While Henrietta’s family was celebrating the funeral, in the laboratory there was a sort of rebirth of science and biology. In fact, the tumoral cells of Henrietta had got something special, and they were very different from thousands of other cells already tested: they were immortal. These strange cells live and increase without any problem. The research breathes again thanks to HeLa.

On one hand biomedical discoveries has changed the history of medicine, obtaining prizes and success, but on the other hand the life of Henrietta’s heirs was harsh to make ends meet. Moreover they were at total darkness about the amazing cells of  their relative. The unawareness was one of the problems which  Rebecca Skloot, a scientific journalist, had to deal with. The hunt, for this book, took ten years. She chased Henrietta through the story of her family, official archives and direct evidences.

Skloot writes a complex book (it’s an essay, an article, a novel) with openness and expertise. Although some parts are a bit arduous, it’s a good reading for non experts people. Don’t be scared for the more four hundreds pages because you will be captured in them.

Finally, did Rebecca Skloot find Henrietta Lacks? Enjoy the adventure!


BACK TO BASICS – The Evolution of Scientist Species

pumpkins AUTHOR : Charles Darwin

TITLE : On the Origin of Species


Do you remember in the film “Matrix” that famous and amazing scene in which Neo has to choose between two pills, one red and the other one blue? Yes? Perfect! Because “On the Origin of Species”, when it was published, had the same impact as Neo had when ate the red pills. And he saw a new world outside.

Darwin also in 1830 saw a new world when he travelled on “The Beagle” on an exciting survey expedition. He took many notes during his voyage, and after that he continued his observations at home. This huge work was gathered in many essays, but “Origin of Species” is the best known.

The main and famous topic, introduced by Darwin, was the theory that populations evolve through a process of natural selection based on  their strongest and most useful characteristics to survive in their habitat. We have to remember that, before Darwin, other scientists (such as Lamarck and Linneus) tried to understood better the working of Nature.

Nowadays, thanks to this cornerstone, scientists have impreoved their knowledge of biology. Nevertheless we must not forget that in Darwin’s time the essay and the theory of evolution weren’t easily accepted, either by the Scientific Community or by the Church, inflaming furious debates for years. Fortunately the revolution of biology took place.

“On the Origin of Species” is not a simple book to read. In fact the old style and the multitude of examples make the book seem long-minded and rather verbose by todays standards.

However, in my opinion, once in your life you should read a page of “On the Origin of Species”. Do it with the same respect that you have when you listen to some past episodes by your grandfather because both have contributed to changing the world and have made our history.