Tuesday, September 27, 2011

N.C. researcher helped with "Henrietta Lacks"

"The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" is a book that tells the story of a young African American woman from Virginia whose aggressive cervical cancer in 1951 gave rise to unusual HeLa cells -- named from the first two letters of her first and last names.

Neither Lacks nor anyone in her family knew that doctors and researchers took her cells, replicated them, tested and sold them as they conducted research into the nature of cancer.

Author Rebecca Skloot spent 10 years tracking Lacks family members, who were frequently confused when they learned Henrietta's cells continued to live even after she died.

Skloot consulted many scientists as she prepared her manuscript. One of them was Dr. David Kroll, chairman of the department of pharmaceutical sciences at N.C. Central University, whose studies on the action of anti-cancer drugs have made extensive use of HeLa cells.

Kroll will talk about his experience from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at UNC Charlotte's Barnhardt Student Activity Center, Salons D and E.

Kroll's talk is titled: "A Black Woman, a White Boy, and a PhD: A Grateful Scientist's Reflections on the Henrietta Lacks Story."

UNCC promoters say he will share "in approachable language the major advances made with HeLa cells that continue to serve humanity today." He will tell his story of working with Skloot and the Lacks family while serving on the board of the Henrietta Lacks Foundation, dedicated to providing medical and educational grants to descendants of those who unknowingly participated in and made contributions to biomedical research.

Seating is limited. Reservations are required: www.health.uncc.edu/gratefulscientist.