The Compatibility Gene: How Our Bodies Fight Disease, Attract Others, and Define Ourselves

Daniel M. Davis. Oxford Univ., $29.95 (232p) ISBN 978-0-19-931641-0
Davis describes his task simply: “[T]his is the story of a few human genes and how we discovered what these genes do.” However, his book is far more complex and rich than such an explanation might lead us to expect. The genes in question are at the heart of the human immunological response, and Davis, writing for a general audience, superbly explains much of what scientists now understand about immunology. That he does so within a historical context makes the story that much more captivating. Immunology is only about 70 years old, having begun with the pioneering work of Nobel laureate Peter Medawar in the 1940s. Davis, an immunologist himself, takes readers through the reasoning and experimentation of most of the field’s major figures and demonstrates how competition and cooperation drive scientific breakthroughs. He also explains the amazingly broad roles that genes play in determining individual immune responses. In addition to the fact that “the whole gamut of possible illnesses that could ever affect us are known to be influenced by our compatibility genes,” Davis shows that these genes also have an impact on brain organization and function and on the success of pregnancy. Agent: Caroline Hardman, Hardman and Swainson (U.K.). (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 09/23/2013
Release date: 10/01/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 248 pages - 978-0-19-939393-0
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