- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
From The CriticsReviewer: Mailen Kootsey, PhD (Loma Linda University)
Description: This book summarizes the papers presented and the discussions at a symposium on smooth muscle held in London at the Novartis Foundation in 2001. The participants and authors are leading researchers in the field, so the book describes the current knowledge about the activation and control of smooth muscle as of that date and the experiments upon which the understanding was based.
Purpose: The purpose of the symposium (and thus of the book) was to review the current thinking about mechanisms of control of smooth muscle contraction, especially the roles of calcium ions and the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR). Because smooth muscle deficiencies are implicated in numerous health problems (e.g. hypertension), an accurate understanding of these control mechanisms would have widespread implications in healthcare. In his introductory chapter, symposium chair David Eisner suggests eight specific questions for the participants to address, for example: To what extent does the SR contribute to the rise of intracellular calcium ion concentration that activates contraction? Similar questions have been raised for skeletal and cardiac muscle and the control mechanisms in these tissues are better understood. The chapters in this book provide some answers to the eight questions and suggestions for future research.
Audience: The immediate beneficiaries of the symposium were clearly the expert participants who gained insights that could help direct their ongoing research. Nevertheless, this written record will also be helpful to graduate students and researchers moving into the field of smooth muscle. Teachers of graduate or advanced undergraduate courses touching on smooth muscle will also find this book to be a useful reference.
Features: The bulk of this book is made up of papers presented at the symposium. While the material is very technical and specialized, the writing quality is uniformly excellent and the authors include enough illustrations of original data and diagrams of hypotheses to keep the reader's attention. I especially appreciated the detailed transcriptions of the discussions following each paper as well as three general discussion sessions. The reader can thus follow the research community's thinking in drawing conclusions from data and in the planning of new experiments. The book could not end with a complete and accurate description of smooth muscle control, but there is much insight and the working of the scientific process is well illustrated.
Assessment: Complexity is a major theme in biology and medicine and the material in this book illustrates why the theme is appropriate. If there is a single conclusion of this book, it would be that numerous factors and mechanisms interact to determine the contractile response of smooth muscle to varying conditions in the body. The material discussed is highly technical, but the subject is absolutely essential for the physiologist, the basic medical scientist, and ultimately the physician. As a snapshot of understanding at a specific time, the life of the book as state-of-the-art will be limited. But, it is also an excellent illustration of the scientific process and the needed interaction between researchers employing different experimental techniques and contributing from different viewpoints.