August 17, 2011

whatcha reading xxi

Today most Americans have their tissue on file somewhere. When you go to the doctor for a routine blood test or to have a mole removed, when you have an appendectomy, tonsillectomy, or any other kind of ectomy, the stuff you leave behind doesn't always get thrown out. Doctors, hospitals, and laboratories keep it. Often indefinitely.

In 1999 the RAND Corporation published a report (the first, and, so far, last of its kind) with a "conservative estimate" that more than 307 million tissue samples from more than 178 million people were stored in the United States alone. This number, the report said, was increasing by more than 20 million samples each year. The samples come from routine medical procedures, tests, operations, clinical trials, and research donations. They sit in lab freezers, on shelves, or in industrial vats of liquid nitrogen. They're stored at military facilities, the FBI, and the National Institutes of Health. They're in biotech company labs and most hospitals. Biobanks store appendixes, ovaries, skin, sphincters, testicles, fat, even foreskins from most circumcisions. They also house blood samples taken from most infants born in the United States since the late sixties, when states started mandating the screening of all newborns for genetic diseases.

And the scale of tissue research is only getting bigger...

- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot


This is a great book. It should be required reading for all first-year college students and, uh, anybody who ever plans to visit a doctor.


  1. ready for cloning??

  2. I had to laugh because she said, "When you go to the doctor for a routine blood test or to have a mole removed..." I've done both in the last two weeks. (The mole was benign but my doc wants to talk to me about my cholesterol.)

  3. I agree with Mom (?). Saving it for what?

  4. lol Soylent Green is people. (I kid. Read the book. The scope and scale of the research boggles the noggin.)

  5. you never know when you'll need a spare mole. I can never throw anything away either...I always hang onto things just in case.