cover image The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human

The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human

Siddhartha Mukherjee. Scribner, $32.50 (480p) ISBN 978-1-982117-35-1

A better understanding of the cell holds immense power for medicine according to this eye-opening account from Pulitzer winner Mukherjee (The Emperor of All Maladies). He begins with the ground-breaking realization from two 19th-century scientists that every bit of plant and animal tissue in the world is made up of microscopic cells. Since then, Mukherjee writes, there has been “a revolution in the making, and a history (and future) that had been unwritten: of cells, of our capacity to manipulate cells.” An extraordinarily gifted storyteller, Mukherjee offers an expansive chronology of discovery in cell therapies (such as IVF) and setbacks, such as the use of thalidomide for pregnancies in the 1960s. He also includes stories of what he calls “new humans”—Mukherjee clarifies that the term isn’t a sci-fi-inspired “vision of the future,” but rather everyday folks whose health has been restored by advances in cellular manipulation and engineering, such as a patient who recovered from leukemia with cell therapy. The author’s ideas about the near future of medicine (one in which medicine will “perhaps even create synthetic versions of cells, and parts of humans”) are both convincing and inspiring, and woven throughout his narrative are accessible explanations of cell biology and immunology. This is another winner from Mukherjee. (Oct.)