AP Biology Summer Assignment: (DUE: August 7, 2021)

In order for students to take AP Biology, they are required to complete the following assignment over the summer. This will be collected during the first week of class. They will read a nonfiction book and answer guided reading questions. The book of choice is: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Using this book will deepen students’ understanding of science, medicine, ethics, and history. It will help to create a meaningful dialogue and challenge students to think outside the box. This will allow them to view science in a new light and understand how important it is to be knowledgeable of current scientific and ethical issues. Given the current events ― #BlackLivesMatters, and the health disparities that COVID -19 has had on the people of colour ― it is important for students to learn how far back these disparities go and how they can help bring about change in healthcare policies that have mainly served the privileged. They will be required to make a PowerPoint presentation regarding the scientific advances discussed in the book and the related ethical dilemmas. During the first week of class, the students will share their presentation with the class. Students must BOTH complete the guided reading questions and the PowerPoint presentation. The following are links that will help you gather the information you need for the assignment:


* Only one - two sentences will suffice per question


Prologue: The Woman in the Photograph

1.    The author uses several similes to describe cells. What simile does she use to describe the way a cell looks? What simile does she use to explain the functions of the different parts of a cell? What do these similes suggest about biology?

2.    What is mitosis? What beneficial biological processes involve mitosis?

3.    What simile does Donald Defler use to describe mitosis?

4.    What happens when there is a mistake during the process of mitosis?

5.    According to Defler, how important was the discovery of HeLa cells?

6.    As a high school student, Skloot began researching HeLa cells to find out more about Henrietta Lack. Examine pages 5 and 6 and write down each step that Skloot took to begin her research.


Chapter One: The Exam

1.    How long did Henrietta wait between first telling her girlfriends that “something didn’t feel right” and going to the doctor?

2.    Why does Sadie think Henrietta hesitated before seeing a doctor?

3.    What did Henrietta’s first doctor assume the source of the lump on Henrietta’s cervix was? What stereotype or bias might this assumption be based upon?

4.    Why did David Lacks take Henrietta to the public wards at Johns Hopkins instead of a closer hospital?

5.    Explain what the Jim Crow laws were.

6.    Review the notes on Henrietta’s medical history found on page 16. Based on the objective details in her medical chart, what can you infer about Henrietta’s life and personality?

7.    Based on the medical chart, how would you describe Henrietta’s feelings about doctors?

8.    What did Howard Jones find “interesting” about Henrietta’s medical history? What does this finding suggest about Henrietta’s cancer?


Chapter Three: Diagnosis and Treatment

1.    How are different types of cancers categorized?

2.    Explain how the development of the Pap smear improved the survival rate of women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

3.    How did doctors justify using patients in public hospital wards as medical research subjects without obtaining their consent or offering them financial compensation.? Do you agree or disagree with their reasoning?

4.    How did TeLinde hope to prove that his hypothesis about cervical cancer was correct?

5.    What was George Gey’s position at Johns Hopkins?

6.    Explain what an immortal cell line is.


Chapter Four: The Birth of HeLa

1.    Summarize the main obstacles Gey and his assistants faced in their effort to grow cells.

2.    Where did the name “HeLa” come from?

3.    What happened to the HeLa cells that Mary cultured?

4.    Gey chose to give away samples of HeLa to his colleagues almost immediately. Do you think this was a good decision? Explain your answer.

5.    Once HeLa started growing, was Henrietta informed that her cells were being used in Gey’s research?


Chapter Five: “Blackness Be Spreadin All Inside”

1.    After her diagnosis and treatment, how did Henrietta behave?

2.    What important information did Henrietta’s doctor fail to give her before starting cancer treatment?


Chapter Six: “Lady’s on the Phone”

1.    What do the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and the Mississippi Appendectomies suggest about the history of African Americans and medicine?


Chapter Seven: The Death and Life of Cell Culture

1.    What did Gey hope to accomplish with the HeLa cells?

2.    What did Hela allow scientists to do for the first time?

3.    Who was Alexis Carrel? Why did he win the Nobel Prize?

4.    What details suggest that Carrel’s claims about the immortal cell line were not scientifically sound?


Chapter Eight: “A Miserable Specimen”

1.    After her initial round of treatment, what did Henrietta’s doctors assume about the effectiveness of the radium therapy?

2.    How did her doctors react to Henrietta’s intuitive conviction that the cancer was spreading inside of her?

3.    When did the doctors realize that Henrietta had been correct about the growth of her cancer?


Chapter Ten: The Other Side of the Tracks

1.    Cootie seems to know and understand a little bit about HeLa cells, but he believes that Henrietta’s spirit is still present in her cells. What does Cootie think about the reason that HeLa cells were used to develop a polio vaccine?

2.    Where does Cootie think Henrietta’s cancer came from?


Chapter Eleven: “ The Devil of Pain Itself”

1.    Describe the progression of Henrietta’s cancer in the eight months between her diagnosis and her death.

2.    Why did doctors stop giving Henrietta blood transfusions?


Chapter Twelve: The Storm

1.    Why did Henrietta’s doctors need to ask for her family’s permission to remove tissue samples after her death?


Chapter Thirteen: The HeLa Factory

1.    Explain how a neutralization test is used to determine a vaccine’s efficacy.

2.    What unusual characteristics of HeLa cells made them ideal for use in the polio vaccine trials?

3.    Paraphrase the explanation of how a virus reproduces found on page 97. Why did the fact that HeLa cells are malignant make them particularly useful in the study of viruses?

4.    Why was the development of methods of freezing cells an important scientific breakthrough?

5.    Why is standardization important in scientific research?

6.    Why did scientists want to be able to clone cells for research?

7.    Explain the contribution that HeLa made to the emerging field of genetics.


Chapter Fourteen: Helen Lane

1.    Why didn’t Henrietta’s family know that her cells were still alive?

2.    In what specific ways do you think that learning of HeLa soon after Henrietta’s death might have changed her family members’ lives?


Chapter Seventeen: Illegal, immoral, and Deplorable

1.    What was Chester Southam concerned that HeLa cells might do?

2.    Describe the experiment that Southam developed to test his hypothesis about HeLa.

3.    Who were the test subjects in Southam’s first research study? Were they informed about the research and its risks?

4.    What was the result of Southam’s first research study? Based on these results, did his hypothesis appear to be correct?

5.    Where did Southam find test subjects for his second research study?

6.    Based on the results of the second study, what two things did Southam believe that injections of HeLa might be able to do?

7.    How did Southam justify his decision to inject HeLa cells into patients without their knowledge or consent?

8.    What does the term “informed consent” mean?

9.    What is the purpose of the Nuremberg Code?

10. Explain how the action against Southam and Mandel led to the development of informed consent forms as a standard medical practice?


Chapter Eighteen: “Strangest Hybrid”

1.    What are somatic cells?

2.    What scientific discoveries were made possible as a result of fused hybrid cells?


Chapter Twenty: The HeLa Bomb

1.    What did Stanley Gartler discover about eighteen of the most commonly used cell cultures?

2.    How was Gartler able to link the contamination problem to HeLa?

3.    What unique abilities did HeLa have that allowed it to contaminate cultures without researchers being aware that contamination had occurred?

4.    Why would HeLa contamination be a problem for researchers?

5.    What is “spontaneous transformation?” What did Gartler suggest about spontaneous transformation?


Chapter Twenty-One: Night Doctors


1.    What do the Lackses believe Johns Hopkins did to black people?

2.    What are “night doctors?”

3.    Why did Johns Hopkins start a medical school and hospital in a poor black neighborhood? What purpose was the school/hospital intended to serve?

4.    What is the Lacks family’s biggest complaint about the way they have been treated by Johns Hopkins and Dr. Gey?


Chapter Twenty-Two: “The Fame She So Richly Deserves”

1.    What type of cancer was George Gey diagnosed with?

2.    What specific request did Gey make prior to going into surgery? Why didn’t his surgeons honor his request?

3.    After finding out that his cancer was terminal, what reason did Gey give for his decision to offer himself as a research subject?

4.    Do you agree that Henrietta should have been correctly identified in order to “give her the fame she so richly deserves,” or do you think her anonymity should have been protected? Explain your answer,


Chapter Twenty-Three: “It's Alive”

1.    Why did researchers want DNA samples from Henrietta’s family?

2.    Did researchers explain why they wanted DNA samples to the Lacks family? Did the family give informed consent for the research done on those samples?

3.    Why did the Lacks family think the doctors were taking their blood?

4.    Why did advances in genetic research necessitate establishing the legal requirement that doctors or researchers obtain informed consent documentation prior to taking DNA samples from patients for research?


Chapter Twenty-Four: “Least They Can Do”

1.    Explain how the sale of HeLa evolved into a business. Describe the extent to which the profits from that business are likely a direct result of the sale of HeLa cells. In what other ways do scientists, corporations, and individuals profit as a result of HeLa?


Chapter Twenty’Five: “Who Told You You Could Sell My Spleen?”

1.    Why did Ted Slavin start Essential Biologicals?

2.    Summarize the pros and cons of giving patients legal ownership of their cells.


Chapter Twenty-Six: Breach of Privacy

1.    How did Deborah react after reading about her mother’s death?

2.    How have laws regarding medical privacy changed since the early 1980s?


Chapter Twenty-Seven: The Secret to Immortality

1.    Explain how the human papillomavirus (HPV) causes cervical cancer.

2.    Are scientists able to definitely explain why HeLa grew so powerfully?

3.    Describe the contribution that HeLa has made to research on the HIV virus and the AIDS epidemic.

4.    Explain the Hayflick limit. Why are HeLa cells able to live beyond the Hayflick limit?


Chapter Twenty-Eight: After London

1.    What did Deborah hope would happen as a result of the BBC documentary?

2.    What motivated Pattillo to organize the HeLa Cancer Control Symposium?


Chapter Twenty-Nine: A Village of Henriettas

1.    What did Deborah hope would happen as a result of Skloot’s research about Henrietta?


Chapter Thirty: Zakariyya

1.    What does Zakariyya’s choice of words--”that damn doctor who done rape her cells”--reveal about his feelings about and perception of what Grey did?

2.    What does Zakariyya blame on Henrietta’s cancer cells? Does Deborah agree with him?


Chapter Thirty-Two: “All That’s My Mother”

1. Describe the way that Deborah and Zakariyya interact with their mother’s cells.


Chapter Thirty-Three: The Hospital for the Negro Insane

1.    Does the title of this chapter evoke an emotional response from you? Why do you think Skloot chose this title?

2.    Why were the hospital’s medical records from the 1950s and earlier disposed of?


Chapter Thirty-Four: The Medical Records

1.    How does Deborah respond when Skloot suggests photocopying some of Henrietta’s records? Why do you think she responds this way?


Chapter Thirty-Seven: “Nothing to Be Scared About”


1.    What physical ailments did Deborah suffer from as a result of the excitement and stress of seeing her mother’s cells for the first time, and learning about Elsie?


Chapter Thirty-Eight: The Long Road to Clover

1.    What string of events in 2009 suggests that, if Skloot had not begun researching Henrietta’s story a decade earlier, it may have been lost forever?


Where They Are Now/Afterword

1.    If Henrietta Lacks could know how important her cells have been to science, do you think she would approve of the fact that they were taken from her without her knowledge or consent? Explain your answer.


*Some chapters were intentionally left out, however, you’re still required to read them.