Michael Sargent, Biomedicine and the Human Condition: Challenges, Risks and Rewards er lige udkommet på Cambridge University Press. Ifølge forlagets egen omtale, uddrag af anmeldelser og indholdsfortegnelse er det tale om et godt og velskrevet overblik over biomedicinens udvikling og status (dvs. en slags “popular understanding of biomedicine”-bog) (taget fra http://www.ishpssb.org/listserv/20050617-2.html):

Biomedicine is the word biologists use to convey a way of thinking that has elevated medical practice from an ancient trade-craft to a modern rational scientific discipline. In this book the author explores, for non-specialist readers the diverse ways in which biomedicine addresses challenges of health, longevity and reproduction, together with the risks and rewards of our attempts to find better outcomes to ancient problems. From the moment of conception, we are always vulnerable to poor nutrition, microbes or alien chemicals through effects indelibly etched into our genomes and cells. Such events have a crucial impact on our development in the womb and in childhood, on the way respond to infection, the way we age and on the likelihood of developing chronic diseases, including cancer. The author explores many issues of human biology including the lottery of procreation, the burden of our genetic legacy and the influence of infectious disease on human society. Biomedicine has already delivered many benefits and promises to extend our capacities even further. The risks and potential ethical checkpoints are considered.

[jfr. Sven Eriks indlæg om sagen: http://www.corporeality.net/museion/index.php?p=146]

Review from The Guardian Tim Radford Thursday April 21, 2005:

Humans are the sum of their history, and so are their afflictions. “In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children,” says Genesis, and until about 1900, of every thousand babies in England and Wales, 160 died. The proportion of babies that die in the first year in the poorest nations is still about the same. Kalahari hunter-gatherer girls started menstruating at 15, fed their infants for three years, and may have had only four years of menstrual cycles in a lifetime. Modern western women have on average two pregnancies but 35 years of menstrual cycles and the longer the interval between menarche and first birth, the greater the risk of breast cancer. In one chapter, Michael Sargent races from Genesis to Malthus; from infanticide to birth control and assisted reproduction. His approach (incorporating religious narrative, historical discovery and the latest medical science) is the same for the story of DNA and genetic diseases; for the first adventures in cell biology and for the business of being conceived, born and delivered to maturity. Once a baby is born, invasion by invisible aliens sets up an immune response: sometimes the immune system overreacts. Hayfever was first described in 1819, and it was very rare; now it affects one in two in the developed world. Improved healthcare may have eliminated some hazards, only to set up others. The book races through life’s obstacle course: the links between inheritance and longevity; the slow, uncertain battle against cancer; the recent but insecure successes of vaccines and antibiotics; the hazard of pandemics; and the promise of approaches made possible by the latest research. Sargent’s tale is rooted in science, but he sees the big picture as well. The story is epic but the language is a marvel of clarity. Knowledge empowers, and if this book were on prescription, it might improve the national health.

Review by Henry Gee:

If you need a one-stop shop explaining how science and medicine have kept us healthy, all the way back to the year dot, this is the book you need. It’s all here: the invention of agriculture, the great plagues and pestilences, all the way up to IVF, genetic modification and all the rest of today’s technological hoopla. It’s written with style and considerable wit, and anybody who can explain the details of the immune system this well clearly deserves a medal. Mille Points to the author, but Nulle Points to Cambridge University Press for dressing this Belle of the Ball in academic Widow’s Weeds. What is it with publishers?

Chapter Titles:

1. Challenges, Risks, and Rewards: Learning to Control Our Biological Fate • Leaving Eden • Challenges, Risks, and Rewards – Introducing a Theme • George Bernard Shaw’s Misgivings – Twentieth-Century Optimism • The Great Philanthropists • Investment in the New Biology • Questions from a Sceptical Public • Biomedicine Comes of Age

2. Learning to Breed Successfully • “In Sorrow Thou Shalt Bring Forth Children” • Changing Reproductive Habits • Surviving Childhood • Birth Control • Assisting Reproduction • Challenges, Risks, and Rewards – a Summary

3. How Life is Handed On • DNA Transmits Genetic Information • Nucleic Acids and Heredity • Genetic Contributions to a Fertilised Egg • What Is a Gene? • Dark Secrets of DNA • How Life Experience and Heredity Affect Health • Challenges, Risks, and Rewards – a Summary

4. Cells in Sickness and Health • The Architecture of Cells • A Cell for Every Purpose – Specialists and Stem Cells • Cells Communicating – Growth Factors and Their Receptors • The Death of Cells • Cells and Immortality • Challenges, Risks, and Rewards – a Summary

5. Experiences in Utero Affect Later Life • The Perfect Nursery? • Perils of Embryonic Life • How Nutritional Experiences in Utero Affect Adult Health • Premature Birth – the Danger of Arriving Early • From Birth to Maturity • Challenges, Risks, and Rewards – a Summary

6. Infection, Nutrition, and Poisons: Avoiding an Unhealthy Life • Microbes – Historic Enemies • How Can We Know What We Should Eat? • Toxicological Dangers – Living in a Chemical Zoo • Challenges, Risks, and Rewards – a Summary

7. Signs of Ageing: When Renovation Slows • Life Span and Ageing • What Happens as We Age? • Longevity, Life Experience, and the Genome • How Cells Grow Old • Stopping the Clock • Challenges, Risks, and Rewards – a Summary

8. Cancer and the Body Plan: A Darwinian Struggle • Twentieth-Century Nightmare • Six Steps to Chaos • Life Experience and Cancer – Six Major Risks • Control and Prevention of Cancer • Challenges, Risks, and Rewards – a Summary

9. Fighting Infection • Historic Epidemics • Vaccines • Magic Bullets – Antibiotics • Why Microbes Will Always Be a Threat • Challenges, Risks, and Rewards – a Summary

10. Are Devastating Epidemics Still Possible? • Should We Worry about Unknown Infectious Enemies? • Influenza • AIDS • Prion Diseases • Mosquito-borne Diseases • The Threat of Bioterrorism • Challenges, Risks, and Rewards – a Summary

11. Discovering Medicines: Infinite Variety through Chemistry • The Power of Chemistry • Lessons from Nature • Making New Drugs • Quacks, Carelessness, and Misadventure • Challenges, Risks, and Rewards – a Summary

12. Protein Medicines from Gene Technology • Genetically Engineered Insulin • Gene Technology Becomes an Industry • Making Novel Protein Medicines • Challenges, Risks, and Rewards – a Summary

13. Refurbishing the Body • The Surgical Tradition • The Biology of Renewal • Twentieth-Century Uses of Human Blood • Blue Babies and Coronary By-pass Operations • Tissue Engineering – Repairing Skin and Other Tissues • Organ Transplantation • Cell Therapy – Radical Uses of Stem Cells • Challenges, Risks, and Rewards – a Summary

14. Living with the Genetic Legacy • The Burden of Genetic Disease • Avoiding Genetic Disease • Treatment of Genetic Disease • Fixing Faults in the Genome – Gene Therapy • Germ-line Therapy • The Human Genome Project – a Detailed Map of a New Frontier • Ethical Dilemmas and the Genome Project • Challenges, Risks, and Rewards – a Summary

15. Epilogue: Signposts to “Wonderland”

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