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From The CriticsReviewer: Marion C. Cohen, PhD (SUNY Downstate Medical Center)
Description: This is the fifth edition of a popular textbook on basic immunology. It has been updated so that it incorporates new scientific information that has been published and accepted by the immunological community since the previous edition, published in 2000.
Purpose: The purpose is to give students an explanation of the experimental observations that form the basis for immunology at the molecular, cellular, and whole organism levels. It further explains how the immune system is involved in human disease thus providing the student with a clinical context for the material. For the medical or dental student faced with finding contextual significance for the large amount of basic science material that s/he is required to absorb, the book provides a guide through the sometimes difficult language and concepts of immunology. While there are a large number of immunology textbooks on the market, this book is one in which a student will find explanations for most questions about immunological concepts that s/he might have.
Audience: The book is targeted to medical, dental, and graduate students taking an immunology course that includes both the essential components of the immune system and how they function in immune responses, as well as the immune system in disease. It is useful as a source of information for anyone at any level of competence. The authors are well known and highly respected immunologists.
Features: The book covers all those topics that are usually discussed in any standard immunology course. Although the chapter headings are the same as those in the fourth edition, there are substantial changes. Information in some areas has expanded enormously and is reflected in new material on topics relating to innate immunity and signal transduction. Some new figures have been added and others have been modified so that they are easier to understand. Some of the colors are more intense than in the fourth edition. Tables have been redesigned so that they are much easier to read. As in the past, "boxes" have been used to present information about experimental approaches, diseases, and some specific molecular or biological processes. Taken together, all of these changes have improved what was already a user-friendly and very readable textbook. As before, there are three appendixes: a glossary; principal features of CD molecules; and laboratory techniques. Most basic courses will include some information from each chapter in the book, although the level of detail required will certainly vary. There are still some idiosyncratic features. For example, Type II hypersensitivity reactions now precede Type III and Type IV hypersensitivity reactions with autoimmunity (often a separate chapter) at the end. However, as in the previous edition, this is followed by Type I hypersensitivity as a separate chapter. There is probably a rationale for this untraditional order but it isn't obvious. Other textbooks have included case studies that provide relevance, particularly with respect to basic concepts. Unfortunately this book does not have this kind of reinforcement. On the other hand, the summary at the end of each chapter focuses the attention of the student towards the importance of the material just presented.
Assessment: Immunology is a constantly changing field so there is a need for frequent revisions so that textbooks remain current and accurate. Thus there is a good rationale for publishing this new edition. The fourth edition was an attractive book and the fifth is even more attractive with clearer figures and tables. The book is easy to read and while it is targeted to students, it could serve as a reference for anyone who needs some background information on basic immunology as well as immune-mediated diseases. There are a number of immunology textbooks currently on the market. Although some of the others may have some features that are useful, as an all-purpose book for teaching medical, dental, and graduate students, this book is certainly one of the best.