The Strongest boy in the world: How genetic information is reshaping our lives

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<ul><li><p>Book Reviews</p><p>Marks Basic Medical Biochemistry: A Clinical Ap-proach (Second Edition)Colleen Smith, Allan D. Marks, and Michael A. Lieberman,Lippincott Williams &amp; Wilkins, Philadelphia, 2005, 977 pp.,ISBN 0-7817-2145-8, $59.95</p><p>The first edition of this well liked book (among medicalstudents) appeared in 1996, authored by Allan Marks,Dawn Marks, and Colleen Smith. Their worthy aim was tosimplify the complex for the benefit of medical studentstrying to cope with biochemistry. A second edition hadlong been planned, but the plans sadly were thwarted anddelayed by the untimely death of one of the original au-thors, Dawn Marks, in 2000, and that of a second, ColleenSmith, in 2002. Nevertheless, it is pleasing to note that theoriginal format and aims have been retained and extended.All chapters have been updated, and nucleotide metabo-lism has been given its own chapter (because of theimportance of understanding the various types of drugsthat interfere with DNA metabolism), and the MolecularEndocrinology chapter has been eliminated because itoverlaps to a great extent what is taught in physiologycourses (the authors say), with some of the material beingrelegated to other chapters. There is a whole new chapteron ethanol metabolism, and there are a lot of other rear-rangements with the addition of new material on, for ex-ample, xenobiotics, blood cell differentiation, the regula-tion of energy use by muscle, and an expansion of thesection on connective tissue proteins.The whole book is divided into eight sections each con-</p><p>taining five or six chapters: Fuel Metabolism; Chemical andBiologic Foundations of Biochemistry; Gene Expressionand the Synthesis of Proteins; Fuel Oxidation and theGeneration of ATP; Carbohydrate Metabolism; Lipid Me-tabolism; Nitrogen Metabolism; and Tissue Metabolism(this includes hormones, blood cells, plasma, liver metab-olism, muscle, nervous system, extracellular matrix, andconnective tissue). Although separated out from the maintext in this way (for example, perhaps some of this materialmight have been inserted earlier into the text at someappropriate place), these chapters seem to work. (There isalways the danger of teaching medical students a load ofbiochemistry and requiring them to memorize it, withoutexplaining its medical relevance in context, thus makinglearning biochemistry a chore; here, the clinical casesestablish this relevance almost from page one.)The clinical case studies are for me the most attractive</p><p>feature of the book and indeed the most useful in terms ofteaching biochemistry to medical students. They are de-scribed as patients presenting in the clinic, and their symp-toms are described. The patients have names that provideclues as to their problems; thus it can be guessed thatJean-Ann Tonich might have alcohol problems. Similarly,it may be concluded that Lotta Topaign might be suffer-ing from gout! However, a serious educational point is that</p><p>the patients (who are based on real but composite pa-tients from Dr Allan Marks medical practice) appear, somediagnoses are made, some conclusions are reached, butthen they appear again and again later on in the text, astheir cases (and presumably students knowledge of bio-chemistry) develop.Sections have summaries, and chapter summaries have</p><p>keywords highlighted in bold. At the end of chapters, thereare multiple choice questions with answers given at theback of the book. I thought these were mostly rather trivial,but they are in the format required by the Board of Exam-iners in the U.S. Most of the end-of-chapter references(aside from historical ones) are post-2002. The print istwo-color, and U.S. units are used for laboratory quantitieswith no translation for European users of the book. Thereis a CD (inserted into the back cover), which is easy to use.It contains about 60 patients as PDF files (in typescriptformat), five images as JPG files, and nine Flash anima-tions. These are quite imaginative and detailed, and stu-dents can study them at their leisure.There are a few proofreading errors (trivial, but actually</p><p>rare these days) such as CO2 rather than CO2 andcysteine misspelled, and some recent issues seem to havebeen missed, such as problems with the Cox2 inhibitorVioxx (p. 661), but these are minor quibbles. I have usedthe first edition of this book for many years with medicalstudents. The case studies are ingenious, amusing, andwell thought out and immediately show the relevance ofbiochemistry to medicine, and the diagrams are eminentlyclear and simple. I look forward to using this secondedition with this years new entrants.</p><p>E. J. WoodSchool of Biochemistry and Microbiology</p><p>University of LeedsLeeds LS2 9JT, UK</p><p>The Strongest Boy in the World: How Genetic Informa-tion Is Reshaping Our LivesPhillip Reilly, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, ColdSpring Harbor, NY, 2006, 278 pp., ISBN 0-87969-801-2,$29</p><p>This book, which contains a series of easy-to-read es-says, is by Phillip Reilly, who is a physician, a geneticist,and a lawyer and who has a number of other popularbooks to his credit. Popular should not be read as over-simplified or dumbed down. He is extremely well readand up-to-date and offers here 20 stories about differentaspects of genetics, including especially the ethical as-pects (e.g. genetically modified food, stem cells, clonedcats, etc.). The level is that of the intelligent reader whoknows something about science and genetics (and medi-</p><p> 2006 by The International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology BIOCHEMISTRY AND MOLECULAR BIOLOGY EDUCATIONPrinted in U.S.A. Vol. 34, No. 5, pp. 395396, 2006</p><p>This paper is available on line at http://www.bambed.org 395</p></li><li><p>cine), but there are no pictures of gels or genomes! Indeed,there are very few illustrations. The lack of diagrams mayseem somewhat strange to us as biochemists; we areused to using and seeing diagrams to explain things, fromquick sketches to exuberant illustrations in textbooks.The essays are grouped into four sections (and may be</p><p>read in any order): Humanity, which deals with musclestructure (hence the books title), ancestors, race, longev-ity, and intelligence; Diseases (five of them, all genetic ofcourse); Animals and Plants, which covers dogs, cats,mice, corn, and rice; and finally Society, where the topicsare history, DNA and forensics, art and language, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, and finally, stem cells. It iseasy to guess where the ethics comes in, and indeed,many of the topics he deals with are controversial. TheDiseases section would be very interesting as background(including the historical) for medical educators (and alsopossibly as a resource for designing problem-based learn-ing scenarios). The diseases in question are: Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, Huntington disease, deafness, SanLuis Valley syndrome, and severe combined immune de-</p><p>ficiency. They all make entertaining reading with their com-bination of history, clinical, and genetic details and thepossibilities for therapy, present and future. It is impossiblenot to be both intrigued and educated.The writing is erudite and detailed, but accessible and</p><p>always interesting, and mostly topical. Some of it dealswith controversies, but in a very balanced way. Complexscientific issues are dealt with in such a way that readersfeel that they have sufficient information to make a bal-anced judgment themselves. This is not a reference bookor a textbook. Nevertheless, it is highly recommendedreading for students, particularly medical students but alsofor students of any branch of biology who want to beup-to-date and have more detailed background on currentissues. It is not a book for passing exams but for readingabout science for pleasure. This is not a concept that manystudents can cope with but one that we should encourage.</p><p>E. J. WoodSchool of Biochemistry and Microbiology</p><p>University of LeedsLeeds LS2 9JT, UK</p><p>396 BAMBED, Vol. 34, No. 5, pp. 395396, 2006</p></li></ul>