As a young woman working in microbiology I often think about the field of HPV (human papillomavirus) and its impact on women. Thanks to decades of research we have discovered that HPV is a causative agent of cervical cancer (and others, but that’s another article). Even more impressive is that there is now a vaccine designed to elicit immunity against the types that most commonly cause cancer, serotypes 16 and 18. This is great news for a generation of young women who will not have to know the torture of cervical cancer and losing their ability to bear children that their mothers and grandmothers faced. Even my own family has been touched by this disease and I am very thankful that, thanks to modern diagnostics and surgery, my loved one is still here with me. Incredibly, all of these advances can be tracked to one woman who unwittingly changed the face of medicine: Henrietta Lacks.
Read on to find out more about this woman and the fascinating book that has been written about her impact on modern science. Continue reading