The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks | Study Guide

Rebecca Skloot

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks | Glossary


carcinoma in situ: abnormal cells that cluster where they form before spreading into surrounding normal tissue

chromosome: the part of a cell containing genetic information; each human cell contains 46 chromosomes

cloning: a procedure that creates cells identical to each other in every way

Common Rule: The Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, a policy that requires informed consent from people participating in human-subject research of any kind; it generally does not cover anonymous tissue research on stored tissue

culture medium: material in which cells are grown for research purposes

DNA: deoxyribonucleic acid, the molecules inside cells containing genetic information passed down to future generations

epidermoid carcinomas: cancers found in squamous cells—flat cells that make up the skin's surface

HeLa cells: cancer cells taken from Henrietta Lacks's cervix, now used worldwide for medical research

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act): a 2006 law that prevents anyone from publishing or sharing personal medical information without patient consent

HLA markers: human leukocyte antigen molecules on a cell's surface that determine tissue type and immune response

HPV (human papillomavirus): a virus that can cause abnormal cell growth in the form of lesions or growths; some varieties can lead to cervical cancer if left untreated

Pap smear: a screening test for cervical cancer; it involves brushing or scraping a small sample of cells from the cervix

pneumoencephalography: a technique for taking brain images by drilling holes in the skull, draining fluid around the brain, and pumping air in to allow for clearer brain-tissue X-rays; doctors stopped using the technique in the 1970s because it could cause paralysis and permanent brain damage

somatic cell fusion: combining two different types of cells to create new cells with characteristics of both

syphilis: a sexually transmitted disease now treated with antibiotics

telomeres: the ends of a chromosome, which lose a bit of DNA each time a cell divides, eventually resulting in cell death; in cancer cells, telomeres do not get shorter and can grow longer

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