The Language of Life: DNA and the Revolution in Personalized Medicine

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Overview

A scientific and medical revolution has crept up on us. Twenty-one million Americans are affected by 6,000 so-called rare and orphan diseases, many of which are primarily attributable to misspelled genes. And virtually all diseases have a significant hereditary component. Diabetes, heart disease, the common cancers, mental illness, asthma, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and more are having their secrets unlocked through DNA. Families that faced common problems, without hope, are now discovering a new world of understanding, treatment, and prevention. You owe it to yourself to learn about your DNA: how it works, what it reveals, and the benefits and limits of this new knowledge.

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  • Dr. Francis S. Collins
    Dr. Francis S. Collins  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A medical revolution is upon us and bestselling author Collins (The Language of God), director of the National Institutes of Health, does a fabulous job of explaining its dimensions. Our knowledge of the genetic basis for disease has increased exponentially in recent years, and we are now able to understand and treat diseases at the molecular level with personalized medicine—care based on an individual's genetic makeup. Collins presents cutting-edge science for lay readers who want to take control of their medical lives. In an enjoyable form, he discusses cancer, obesity, aging, racial differences, and a host of other concerns. Most fascinating is the way Collins discusses the medical advances currently in place and those soon to come that are directly attributable to the federal government's Human Genome Project, headed by Collins, and which mapped the entire human genome. Collins is also not shy about taking on large political issues. He points out problems with our current health-care system, discusses stem-cell research, and in a cogent commentary, recommends—with caveats—direct-to-consumer DNA testing. By using case studies throughout, he does a superb job of humanizing a complex scientific and medical subject. Illus. (Jan.)
Library Journal
This readable book by Collins (The Language of God), the current director of the National Institutes of Health and former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, can help anyone understand more about how genetics and our DNA contribute to our health. Noting that many diseases are hereditary in origin, Collins reports on the latest breakthroughs in genetics research and discusses how these findings can personalize our medical care, including learning about disease risk, better treatments, and better drug choices and dosages based on our DNA. To illustrate his discussion, the author incorporates actual medical cases and offers some predictions for what we can expect from genetic research in the future, including ways to prevent aging. Each chapter concludes with a list of things to do, e.g., web sites to check and topics to discuss with your doctor. Appendixes cover the basics of genetics and drug development, as well as a comparison of direct-to-consumer DNA testing companies. VERDICT Highly recommended for lay readers interested in their health and health-care workers who need to learn about personalized medicine. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/09.]—Margaret Henderson, Virginia Commonwealth Univ., Richmond
Kirkus Reviews
The new director of the National Institutes of Health and former leader of the government's project to map the human genome is upbeat about personalized medicine-using genetics and family history to determine your risk for disease and designing appropriate treatments accordingly. Collins (The Language of God: A Scientist Presents the Evidence for Belief, 2006) anonymously investigated three leading commercial firms offering genetic analyses by sending them a cheek swab or saliva sample to be measured against gene variants associated with a range of diseases, as well as sensitivity to some commonly used drugs. Gratifyingly, the firms were consistent in their results, although the costs ranged from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Already Collins has adopted some lifestyle changes to improve his odds of avoiding conditions for which he is at risk. His point is that personalized medicine is here now, even though scientists have just scratched the surface of conditions for which genetic risk can be identified. Soon the science will accelerate and the costs will come down. Unfortunately, there are no cures for Huntington's or Alzheimer's disease, so some people may not want to know their risk. Others may want to know if they or an intended spouse are carriers of a recessive disease. Indeed, there are many moral/ethical issues that Collins raises as he reviews the science. He is a first-rate, entertaining expositor, taking the reader through Genetics 101 and providing case studies about genetic medicine in relation to common cancers, aging, the brain, infections and immunity. One striking case was that of an AIDS patient with leukemia who received a stem-cell transplant from a donorwith a mutation preventing the AIDS virus from infecting immune cells. The transplant took and the patient was cured of his leukemia and AIDS. Collins does not demean the role of environment and accidents in his enthusiasm for personalized medicine, and he only lightly treads on issues of genes for sexuality, intelligence, etc., professing skepticism. Even if readers aren't ready to swab their cheeks today, they will learn a lot about the current state of DNA science and its potential. Agent: Gail Ross/Gail Ross Literary Agency
President - Barack Obama
"His groundbreaking work has changed the very ways we consider our health and examine disease."
Doctor - Mehmet Oz
"The future of customized medicine is in your DNA; don’t wait until you are sick to learn why."
Jerome Groopman
“With fluid prose and compelling narratives, Francis Collins makes modern medical science vivid and accessible. This book sets out hope without hype, and will enrich the mind and uplift the heart.”
Doctor - Sanjay Gupta
"Man’s knowledge of man is undergoing the greatest revolution since Leonardo, and Francis Collins is at the leading edge of it. I am a better doctor today because Dr. Collins was my genetics professor in medical school, and now, the world gets to benefit from his wisdom by reading The Language of Life."
President Barack Obama
“His groundbreaking work has changed the very ways we consider our health and examine disease.”
Dr. Mehmet Oz
“The future of customized medicine is in your DNA; don’t wait until you are sick to learn why.”
Dr. Sanjay Gupta
“Man’s knowledge of man is undergoing the greatest revolution since Leonardo, and Francis Collins is at the leading edge of it. I am a better doctor today because Dr. Collins was my genetics professor in medical school, and now, the world gets to benefit from his wisdom by reading The Language of Life.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061733178
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/5/2010
  • Pages: 332
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., is a pioneer gene hunter. He spent fifteen years as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, where he led the international Human Genome Project to a successful completion. For his revolutionary contributions to genetic research he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007, and the National Medal of Science in 2009. He is the Director of the National Institutes of Health.

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