Becca's Reviews > DNA: Promise and Peril

DNA by Linda L. McCabe
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Oct 31, 2008

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bookshelves: medicine, biology, non-fiction, ethics-philosophy
Recommended to Becca by: NEJM
Read from December 27 to 29, 2011 — I own a copy , read count: 1

This is intended to be a complete overview of medical genetics and the current dilemmas at the forefront of the field. And, to be honest, as a medical geneticist (trainee) myself, I felt a little bored at times. It hits all of the cliche notes: Dor Yeshorim, Jesse Gelsinger, Dolly the Sheep, Rosalind Franklin, the Ashkenazi Y chromosome, HeLa cells, Myriad's BRCA patents and sickle cell screening; basically, if you've read anything about genetics in the news in the last ten plus years, it's in this book.

The organization is also sloppy - chapters tend to be made up of semi-related topics trying desperately to coalesce into a theme. There's no segue or connection between chapters, to the point where if a concept explained in one chapter comes up in another, it is explained again (sometimes verbatim from the prior chapter.) I'm also not sure that there is consistency in the explanations of topics for a lay audience. Sometimes there would be an extensive explanation of a topic that seemed pretty self-explanatory and other times, I was left wondering if the average reader would come away with any understanding of what mass-spectroscopy is and why it's different than a Guthrie test. Each chapter ends anti-climatically with a sentence such as "we hope we have convinced you that [this chapter's issue] is worth thinking about"

That being said, it really is a thorough coverage of almost all recent issues in medical genetics and highlights of where the field is going, as seen by two big names in the field. And despite my high level of knowledge going into the book, I found a sizable handful of anecdotes that I had not previously known.

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