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Oprah to Star in HBO Film About Henrietta Lacks Whose Cells Changed Medical History

MAKER Oprah Winfrey will be starring in a new HBO film she describes as a "passion project" that was recently green lighted for production by Deadline.

Winfrey will be starring as the daughter of Henrietta Lacks, a poor African-American tobacco farmer whose cells were sold by the billions without her family's permission to make unprecedented medical breakthroughs.

The film is an adaptation of a New York Times bestselling novel "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot.

In 1951, the unauthorized cells nicknamed "HeLa" cells by scientists, were harvested and used to develop the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more.

The book is told in the perspective of Lacks' daughter Deborah who struggles to learn about the mother she never knew. Deborah also questions how her mother’s cells became one of the most important tools in medicine yet her family can’t even afford health insurance.

Get to know Winfrey by watching her exclusive MAKERS story in the video above.

NEXT: 4 Black Women We Forgot Helped Shape American History »

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Photo Credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images