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Decoding Darkness: The Search For The Genetic Causes Of Alzheimer's Disease Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0738205267 ISBN-10: 0738205265 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1 edition (December 24, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738205265
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738205267
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #483,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Alzheimer's disease, a fatal, annihilating brain disorder, affects millions of men and women around the world. In the United States alone, perhaps one in five persons aged 75 or older suffers from it, though hundreds of thousands of younger people also bear the condition.

Despite its ubiquity, the malady was, until recently, considered a "backwater disease" to which little research attention (and funding) was paid. Advances in gene research, some spearheaded by neurologist Rudolph Tanzi, have led to a new understanding of the causes of Alzheimer's disease, and new possibilities for its cure. In this well-written account of that research, Tanzi and journalist-co-author Ann Parson examine the role of amyloid neuritic plaque, "mucked-up, misfolded protein that fibrilizes and forms rock-hard aggregates that the body can't get rid of." This plaque occurs in humans and certain other carnivorous species (including bears and dogs), and it appears to play a role in neurologic disorders of several kinds. Tanzi reports on recent studies in the use of cholesterol-reducing drugs in lessening levels of "brain dirt," as well as on research that suggests that cardiovascular exercise and a diet low in animal fats can benefit the brain as well as the body. He even cautiously hints that the conquest of Alzheimer's may occur in the very near future. For the time being, his book provides a thoughtful portrait of the illness and of the scholars and scientists who have devoted their lives to combating it. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

At the turn of the 21st century, Alzheimer's is the fourth leading cause of death of Americans. Twenty years ago, Tanzi, now a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and director of Massachusetts General Hospital's Genetics and Aging Unit, worked in a study examining the genetics of Huntington's disease, and while doing so he developed a method for locating disease genes and their proteins., Starting in the 1980s Tanzi applied these methods to the search for the cause or causes of Alzheimer's, a neurogenerative disease similar to Huntington's. In this fascinating storyDpart mystery, part scientific treatise, and part autobiographyDTanzi recounts every step along the way of the search. His own research rests on the hypothesis that deposits of the gummy protein amyloid form millions of plaques that settle between brain cells in the cerebral cortex as the result of a genetic mutation, and he chronicles the search for the gene that contains this mutation. Tanzi's tale (told with the help of science journalist Parson) is not just another sterile account of scientific discovery, as he weaves into his narrative the poignant stories of Alzheimer's families with whom he has worked and patiently guides readers through his own process of discovery and its implications for the future of Alzheimer's patients. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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The book reads easily, as it is interesting, informative, and written humerously.
Justin
Overall, I would have to say this is one of the best science genre books I have ever read...maybe the best after "The Double Helix".
Les
In it Dr. Tanzi follows both his career and the evolution of our knowledge concerning Alzheimer's Disease.
"the_tank"

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Anne Clesas on November 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Decoding Darkness takes you on a fascinating and humorous journey into the world of research. Rudolph Tanzi and Ann Parson have put together an interesting and entertaining book on a very serious subject, Alzheimer's Disease. The book takes you from Tanzi's graduation from University of Rochester to his graduation with a PHD in neurogenetics from Harvard University, to the early days of his research to the present. Decoding Darkness is a must read for anyone's family who has been afflicted with this horrible disease to anyone who is interested in the fascinating world of research and the "heroes" such as Rudolph Tanzi who dedicate their lives to cure these deadly diseases.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book on Alzheimer's research. It covers almost all aspects of interest in the field including genetics, molecular biology, drug discovery and clinical characteristics. The history of the various different discoveries is compellingly narrated and full of little anecdotes and sidelines, which makes the subject so much more fascinating and brings you very close to the people actively (and passionately) involved in all major advancements. In addition, the authors took great care to explain the complex biological processes and interactions of Alzheimer's disease using everyday English, avoiding scientific terminology whenever possible. This makes the book a highly enjoyable read not only for scientists and clinicians, but also - and especially - for the interested lay audience. It's a prime example that science writing does not have to be dry, dull and incomprehensible, but can be as exciting as reading a detective story: once you've started you just want to learn more and more and cannot stop until you have reached the last page. I can highly recommend 'Decoding Darkness' for everyone who is interested in how scientists from all over the world have been engaged in solving the many mysteries and riddles that lie behind this devastating disease.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By edwin b pores on January 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"Decoding Darkness" by Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D. and science writer,. Ann B. Parson, is a very thought-provoking book. Tanzi is the Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit of the Harvard University Medical School. This book reads like a detective story of the author's view of the neurogenetic research leading up to a possibly effective vaccine that we hope will prevent and even may cure Alzheimer's Disease [AD].
To set the stage for the timeliness of the book, I report that the World Alzheimer Congress 2000, of July 9-18 was held in Washington, DC. In a plenary session Dr. Dale Schenk presented a pivotal paper on Elan Pharmaceuticals' new vaccine. He stated that the vaccine is " a disease-modifying therapy that appears in reach. Indeed A-beta modulation may enable physicians, patients, and caregivers to look to the future with optimism and hope".
In the preface we learn that Tanzi is a founder of Prana Biotechnology, Genoplex and Neurogenetics. He has equity in Elan Pharmaceuticals and Bristol-Myers-Squibb.
It is hoped that the Elan vaccine will decrease beta-amyloid production in the brain by blocking gamma secretase, an enzyme that separates beta-amyloid from a larger protein and releases it into the brain. So far Elan has completed the FDA Phase I drug trial for safety. There is no way to predict how the Phase II trial for efficacy will work clinically on humans. It had been tested on transgenic mice.
Dr.Tanzi's style of writing presupposes that the reader has been schooled in the field of neurogenetics.To help the layperson, it is imperative to develop a glossary of at least 100 or more terms. Phrases such as cholinesterase inhibitor, beta-amyloid and gamma secretase, etc. must be understood to better appreciate this book.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Decoding Darkness provides not only the scientific facts about what is known about Alzheimer's disease, but also the historical aspects behind it. This book is a very interesting book to read. I thought it would be another textbook-like format explaining about Alzheimer's disease, but it was more like a detective novel developing into the current state of Alzheimer's disease research in reality. This book was written by one of the very first in the frontiers of Alzheimer's disease research. The information should be accurate and most current.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Justin on November 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Decoding Darkness is a fascinating book that takes into the world of research. After reading this book, you will no longer think of scientist as nerdy little men and women in white coats, but as real people who dedicate their lives to save others. The book reads easily, as it is interesting, informative, and written humerously.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By "kmcauliffe2" on December 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Tanzi and Parsons have written the best science-hunt book since The Double Helix. Tanzi's adult life has clearly been dedicated to the search for the causes of Alzheimer's disease, and his single-minded drive comes through in every page. It is fascinating to learn how passion rules not just art and performance professions, but also (perhaps even to a greater degree) scientific research. The fun, excitement and committment of Tanzi and his colleagues in their pursuit of this disease is related with candor and vividness, and is truly accessible to the lay audience. Tanzi and Parsons have successfully spanned both art (music), philosophy (taoism) and science (genetics) with admirable elan. The book has its biases, but the authors do not hide the autobiographical nature of the narrative. Science might also be written by the victors, and Tanzi and his brilliant team of scientists deserve to record their history, since their contributions have changed the world we live in. The book ends with a vision that this previously hopeless disease will be conquered within our lifetimes. This is a fascinating, and exhilirating perpective. I recommend this book to all science readers with great enthusiasm.
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