Customer Reviews

20
4.6 out of 5 stars
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The Compatibility Gene is a very wide traverse cross the science of immunology. Early work tackling transplant rejection, the function of antigens, genetic diversity, disease healing - Davis bravely touches on many aspects of immunology but does not hesitate to provide useful explanations as necessary. He is a capable and easy expositor, targeting this book well at a lay audience. Many concepts are technical, with explanations that may take a couple of reads. The acronym laden text takes a little following - not all are as memorable as NK (Natural Killer). But it's not a long book and well worth the perseverance.

Davis broadens the scope of the book even further to expound theories on how compatibility genes may affect choice of partners, the connections between the nervous system and immune system, and how pregnancy is possible. A lot of explanation is at a molecular level but the great strength of Davis's book is his tracking of the lives of the scientists, their motivations, controversies, competition and achievements. His narrative on the life of Peter Medawar alone is worth the price of the book. In considering this review, I don't know how he fitted so much into 186 pages. The Notes section is very extensive and helpful and the Index useful.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Daniel Davis gives a masterful account about the discovery of compatibility genes and their fundamental role to human biology: in the generation of specific immune responses to combat viruses and bacteria, mediation of auto-immune diseases, and successful organ transplantation. Davis further unveils fascinating and cutting edge work today showing that the importance of these genes reaches farther than the immune system: in the wiring of the brain, generation of successful pregnancies, and even mate selection. Thus, Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) genes, the most variable of all human genes, may be key to what makes us humans so successful in biological processes requiring compatibility both internally in the human body and at the interface with the outside world. Davis is an appropriate ambassador for the field, currently conducting important immunological research in his own laboratory. In "The Compatibility Gene", he begins with Peter Medawar's pioneering work on transplantation research and Frank Burnet's theory of self-tolerance, leading to the discovery of MHC and eventual absolutely revealing crystal structure of MHC proteins bound to their peptides. It is very exciting to read in such a clear style the interesting history of immunological research, accounts of personal experiences, struggles and eventual scientific breakthrough and discovery. As one with primary training in immunology, it is very refreshing to see such a well-written account of significant immune discoveries and the people who conducted them. This book is a pure joy to read and brings cutting edge science to the everyday reader.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover
At its highest heights, THE COMPATIBILITY GENE captures the energy of scientific discovery. My only criticism is that I did find Davis's detailed discussion of MHC genes a bit challenging at times, but then again I'm no armchair immunologist. I suppose if this section were a cakewalk, then Davis wouldn't be doing justice to his subject. Looking around on Amazon, this appears to be the only book that takes on "compatibility genes" in such an ambitious way - which is why I give it 5 stars!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book does what the best science writing does - it paints a picture of the scientific and unscientific world as inherently one. The Compatibility Gene surprisingly enriched my understanding of history and taught me many things I had no idea could actually be questioned in the first place.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
THE COMPATIBILITY GENE is an incredibly thoughtful - and yes, at times technical - journey through our immune system, and of the key scientists who showed us the way (the author Daniel Davis humbly included). I have no background in science, and yet I never felt ejected from the narrative. Fascinating, wholly original stuff.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 15, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Disguised as an informal history of immunology, Daniel Davis’ multi-tasking book brings us up to speed on immune system research. This includes a new understanding of immune function in the brain as well as in pregnancy. Formerly, the immune system was thought to remain outside the blood-brain barrier, to avoid damaging neurons. Now it’s increasingly clear that the immune system not only plays a role in learning and mental illness, its cells function very much like neurons.
Like neurons, they form synapses. These are juncture points where proteins are emitted and received by other cells. Molecular immunologist Davis’ own contribution to the research has been to show that these synapses occur in more than one kind of immune cell, and that the synapse is where the immune cell gets switched on and off either to destroy a cell or withdraw. Not only do immune cells act like neurons, Davis points out that “…stroke and many other neurological problems can be triggered or exacerbated by immune responses.” Narcolepsy may even be an auto-immune disease.
The newer research also shows that immune function determines the success of pregnancy, by affecting how well the placenta embeds in the uterine wall. Too much immune response from the mother and the placenta will be rejected or weakened.
In a rare presentation for a lay audience, Davis lays out the fundamental way the system works. Certain “compatibility” genes, which let our body recognize the difference between self and other, exist in nearly all our cells. Their role is to make proteins that hold up to the cell’s surface components of various proteins inside the cell. This way, an immune system cell an tell whether it has encountered a healthy “self” cell or one possessed by a virus.
We each have six of these compatibility genes in our cells, three from the mother and three from the father. Sounds straightforward, but because of the subtypes (A,B, and C) of each, and a thousand or so different versions of each subtypes, the actual range of combinations is astronomical. Depending on which combination you have, you might be protected from certain diseases but not others. Davis reasons that, for the human race as a whole, these genes could cover the spectrum of disease, thus ensuring that some subgroup or tribe can defend against almost any pathogen. But there is no one optimal combination. And there are trade-offs. The same gene that gives some protection against HIV also causes ankylosing spondylitis, an arthritic autoimmune disease of the spine.
Davis even speculates, based on the notorious (and inconclusive) sweaty t-shirt experiments, that compatibility genes might determine sexual preference in humans as they do in mice. It’s not hard to see how compatibility for successful pregnancy and warding off of disease would be a winning combination in natural selection.
The book is by no means all science and no play. Davis uses brief sketches of the major players’ lives to show us how science really works—through collaboration and a very human exchange of ideas. He starts with Peter Medawar, who showed, back in the 50s, that transplant rejection is the result of an immune cell reaction. He goes on to introduce us to the discoverers of the thymus-mediatedT-cells that discriminate between self and other, the antibody- secreting B-cells and the tumor-hunting Natural Killer cells.
Immunology has since moved on to a whole new era, one in which proteins and genes can be manipulated within the cell itself. Several women have played key roles in this more recent research. Pamela Bjorkman gave us the actual structure of the compatibility gene through X-ray crystallography. Form follows function in that the top of this protein is a clamp for seizing and presenting protein bits on the surface of the cell. The illustration of this on p. 77 (location 1473) is alone worth the price of the book.
Whither immune cell research? Davis notes that “. . . our variation in these genes has been linked to many neurological disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.22 This is consistent with an intimate connection between compatibility genes and our nervous system. But researchers studying schizophrenia, and other neurological diseases, differ in their view of how important these genes are. Although many tens of studies link compatibility genes to schizophrenia, dispute remains because each comes to a different conclusion about which versions of these genes are risk factors for illness.23”
Indeed, because it’s very rare for any single gene (as in Huntington’s disease) to cause a disease, immunologist Eric Schacht’s approach has been a multivariate one, to find out which sets of genes function together to influence a specific disease. This requires some higher-order number-crunching.
As for me, an allergy sufferer, who had an adolescent tendency towards depression, I’m happy to find confirmation of my long-held intuition that the immune system plays a role in mental illness. But I wonder whether victims of autism, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia have ever been systematically screened for the presence of Immunoglobulin E, the immune factor responsible for allergy and autoimmune disease. Wouldn’t this be a simpler way of establishing whether this system underlies much mental illness? If all such sufferers do belong to the 20% of the world’s population that has this immune activity (originally a system for fighting parasites), wouldn’t this be useful to know in developing therapies? Wouldn’t then the treatments, at least from some of these diseases, tend to be similar to that of allergy or certain autoimmune conditions?
The science in Davis’ book requires concentration and attention, but it isn’t beyond anyone who’s had a good high-school biology course. I used the Kindle Notes function to highlight and review. Kudos to Davis for enlightening us non-scientists with an engaging, illuminating and very well-written work.

Patricia Lawson, author of HARD ASPECTS, a satire on offshore academia.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover
A fascinating book that explores the world of the immune system and its impact on our body and our unconscious decisions. Dr. Davis takes us into the world of research immunology in a way only an insider can. His insight and anecdotes are unexpectedly compelling - a definite MUST READ!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2015
Format: Paperback
As a (relatively) young immunologist this was a genuine pleasure to read - it's so easy to forget how far we've come in the understanding of the immune system in such a really short time. And it was fascinating to read about the real people behind the discoveries and the logical steps (and missteps) they made in figuring out what we know today. Some of the legendary names in immunology became that much more human to me after reading this book. Davis writes with a scientist's love of his topic and his occasional candid comments made me smile.

My mum has read this too, a bit of a glimpse into what I actually do all day...
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2014
Format: Paperback
I highly recommend this book. In addition to providing a compelling historical perspective into many immunological discoveries important to our understanding of the MHC genes, this book gives a realistic insight into the process of scientific discovery. This is a brilliantly written book that will appeal to anybody. You don't need to be a scientist to enjoy this book, but if you are, it will make you want to be a scientist all over again.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Very well written for the non scientific disciplined to understand.
Honestly expresses the facts known and still unknown
Gives insight to where the understanding of Compatible Genes could lead research in the future.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed

Tales from Both Sides of the Brain: A Life in Neuroscience
Tales from Both Sides of the Brain: A Life in Neuroscience by Michael S. Gazzaniga (Hardcover - February 3, 2015)
$21.21

 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.