The author’s caveats about present and future uses of gene sequencing reflect a physician keenly aware of the ethical and...

THE AGE OF GENOMES

TALES FROM THE FRONT LINES OF GENETIC MEDICINE

Vignettes from the front lines of genetics research and testing.

Lipkin is a clinical geneticist, the go-to specialist for those worried sick about family medical history but also, the worried well who want to live better/longer and, consequently, get their genomes sequenced. They search for mutated genes that indicate risk for, or cause of, an overt disease, and the hope is that the gene can be remedied. That is the case for the author’s first story, about Gaucher disease, a recessive genetic disease caused by a missing enzyme needed to eliminate fatty cellular trash that accumulates in immune cells in the spleen. The enzyme is now commercially synthesized, saving the lives of those who inherited two copies of the defective gene. Lipkin also tells the personal stories of patients diagnosed with mutated genes that cause other rare diseases, as well as more common diseases like Alzheimer’s and some forms of cancer. Readers may not remember which gene causes which malady, but they will empathize with Lipkin’s patients, most of whom are motivated to do whatever they can to mitigate their disease risk. Along the way, the author discusses advanced reproductive technologies and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to weed out embryos with mutated genes—which may not be necessary since not all mutated genes are 100 percent penetrant. Other points of discussion include the effects of diagnosis when there is no treatment, the problem of incidental findings, which can lead to unnecessary treatments, and the prospect of eliminating hereditary disease by screening prospective couples for carrier status, as has been done to reduce the incidence of Tay-Sachs disease among Jewish couples. Lipkin also discusses genetic fingerprinting in criminal cases and retrospective diagnoses—e.g., did Abraham Lincoln have Marfan syndrome?

The author’s caveats about present and future uses of gene sequencing reflect a physician keenly aware of the ethical and moral issues.

Pub Date: May 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8070-7457-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: March 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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