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

Overview

This is the story of a few human genes and how we discovered what these genes do. We each have around 25,000 genes, but the genes in this story are those that vary the most from person to person. These genes—called compatibility genes—are, in effect, a molecular signature that distinguishes each of us as individuals. Davis tells the remarkable story of the discovery of compatibility genes, and how decades of patient scientific inquiry, punctuated with individual strokes of genius, have unraveled their workings. ...

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

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Overview

This is the story of a few human genes and how we discovered what these genes do. We each have around 25,000 genes, but the genes in this story are those that vary the most from person to person. These genes—called compatibility genes—are, in effect, a molecular signature that distinguishes each of us as individuals. Davis tells the remarkable story of the discovery of compatibility genes, and how decades of patient scientific inquiry, punctuated with individual strokes of genius, have unraveled their workings. Davis reveals how our compatibility genes fight disease, and how this fight varies in all of us and is unique. The version of these genes that we have inherited determines the extent to which we are susceptible or resistant to a vast range of different illnesses. What is particularly fascinating is that these same genes influence the wiring of our brains, the lovers we choose, and successful pregnancies. Why this would be so is explored by Davis with provocative new research that uncovers the connections between fighting disease, choosing mates, and having healthy babies. By bringing together evidence from diverse fields of biology, this book argues that our compatibility genes are central to how we live and when we die, and that a shocking amount of what we do and who we are is determined by how we have evolved to survive disease. Science has never been more elusive or tantalizing than in revealing the nature of ourselves—and unlocking the secrets of our compatibility genes will be central to 21st-century medicine.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/23/2013
Davis describes his task simply: “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.)
From the Publisher
"An elegantly written, unexpectedly gripping account of how scientists painstakingly unraveled the way in which a small group of genes ... crucially influence, and unexpectedly interconnect, various aspects of our lives ... Lab work has rarely been made to seem more heroic." -Bill Bryson, Guardian Books of the Year 2013

"Dr Davis's readable and informative book takes the reader into unexpectedly interesting corners of both the immune system and the lives of immunologists. It is packed with an insider's knowledge — not just of the field, but of where its bodies are buried."
-New York Times

"... a fascinating, expertly told story" -New Statesman

"Davis provides a well-written and easy-to-read account of the sometimes complicated biology behind the crucial genes that affect our lives so profoundly." -New Scientist

"Davis weaves a warm biographical thread through his tale of scientific discovery, revealing the drive and passion of those in the vanguard of research ... unusual results, astonishing implications and ethical dilemmas." -Times of London

"Davis makes the twists and turns all count." -Guardian

"Wonderful pen-portraits of the many scientists involved in this fast-moving field ... 5 out of 5 stars." -BBC Science Magazine FOCUS

"Davis gets a gold star ... for putting over an arcase subject with such infectious enthusiasm." —Nature

"...this nonfiction work is a book of the methods, practice, and serendipity of science in which the reader is given a comprehensive yet entertaining glimpse into the lives of scientists whose research still affects us today. ... The stories and insights recounted in the book are an enlightening account of the rewards received as well as the sacrifices needed to be a successful researcher in the sciences..." —PsychCritiques

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199316410
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2013
  • Pages: 248
  • Sales rank: 779,148
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel M. Davis, PhD, is a distinguished immunologist whose work has established new concepts on how immune cells communicate with each other, how immune cells recognize disease, and how viruses spread between cells. He is currently Professor of Immunology at the University of Manchester, UK, where he is the Director of Research at the Manchester Collaborative Center for Inflammation Research. Davis pioneered the use of microscopy to help visualize key molecular components of immune responses. His work helped establish a new concept of how immune cells communicate with each other and how they recognize disease. He has published over 100 academic papers, including papers in Nature and Science, collectively cited over 6,000 times. He was the recipient of a Lister Prize in 2005, a Wolfson Royal Society Merit Award in 2008, and became a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2011.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

PART I: Human Compatibility - A Scientific Revolution
1. Frankenstein's holy trinity
2. Self and non-self
3. Dead but alive in parts
4. A crystal clear answer at last

PART II: The Frontier of Compatibility Research
5. Differences between us that matter
6. Pathfinders
7. Missing self

PART III: The Overarching System
8. Sex and smelly T-shirts
9. Secrets of the mind
10. The footprints of your existence
Epilogue: What makes you so special?

Acknowledgements
References and Notes
Index

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