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The Compatibility Gene [Hardcover]

Daniel M Davis
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 Aug 2013

The Compatibility Gene is a scientific adventure story set in a new field of genetic discovery - that of the crucial genes that define our relationships, our health and our individuality. Here, Daniel M Davis, one of the leading scientists in the field, tells us the story of its grounbreaking developments that have the potential to change us all

We each possess a similar set of around 25,000 human genes. Yet a tiny, distinctive cluster of these genes plays a disproportionately large part in how our bodies work. These few genes, argues Daniel M. Davis, hold the key to who we are as individuals and our relationship to the world: how we combat disease, how our brains are wired, how attractive we are, even how likely we are to reproduce.

In The Compatibility Gene, one of our foremost immunologists tells the remarkable history of these genes' discovery and the unlocking of their secrets. From the British scientific pioneers who, during the Second World War, struggled to understand the mysteries of transplants and grafts, to the Swiss zoologist who devised an entirely new method of assessing potential couples' compatibility based on the smell of worn T-shirts, Davis traces what is nothing less than a scientific revolution in our understanding of the human body: a global adventure spanning some sixty years.

Davis shows how the compatibility gene is radically transforming our knowledge of the way our bodies work - and is having profound consequences for medical research and ethics. Looking to the future, he considers the startling possibilities of what these wondrous discoveries might mean for you and me.

Who am I? What makes me different from everyone else? Daniel Davis recounts the remarkable science that has answered one version of these questions.

'He makes immunology as fascinating to popular science readers as cosmology, consciousness, and evolution'

Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and the author of How the Mind Works and The Better Angels of Our Nature

'There aren't many stories of scientific endeavour that have never been told. This is one of them. Ostensibly about a set of genes that we all have and need, this book is really about the men and women who discovered them and worked out what they do. It's about brilliant insights and lucky guesses; the glory of being proved right and the paralysing fear of getting it wrong; the passion for cures and the lust for Nobels. It's a search for the essence of scientific greatness by a scientist who is headed that way himself'

Armand Marie Leroi, author of Mutants

'Genes help make us what we are, but in the often overstated claims of what DNA can actually say one crucial section of the double helix has largely been ignored. This book fills that gap. The genes behind our system of diversity code for the clues that control tissue transplants, responses to infection and even sexual success. They are complex indeed but the Compatibility Gene cuts through the complexity to reveal the startling truth about perhaps the most important section of the molecule that defines what it means to be human'

Steve Jones, author of Almost Like A Whale

'Davis weaves a warm biographical thread through his tale of scientific discovery, revealing the drive and passion of those in the vanguard of research ... unusual results, astonishing implications and ethical dilemmas'

The Times

'Davis makes the twists and turns all count'

Guardian

'Davis ranges energetically through the research. Cultural references and anecdotes abound'

Nature

'A fascinating, expertly told story'

Michael Brooks, New Statesman

'The genes that make you a true individual ... Davis provides a well-written and easy-to-read account of the sometimes complicated biology behind the crucial genes that affect our lives so profoundly'

New Scientist

'Wonderful pen-portraits of the many scientists involved in this fast-moving field ... 5 out of 5 stars' Henry Gee, BBC Focus magazine

'Dr. Davis's readable and informative book takes the reader into unexpectedly interesting corners of both the immune system and the lives of immunologists. It is packed with an insider's knowledge - not just of the field, but of where its bodies are buried' Nicholas Wade, New York Times

Daniel M. Davis is director of research at the University of Manchester's Collaborative Centre for Inflammation Research and a visiting professor at Imperial College, London. He has published over 100 academic papers, including papers in Nature and Science, andScientific American, and lectures all over the world, including at the Royal Institution. He has previously won the Oxford University Press Science Writing Prize, and has given numerous interviews for national and international media, including the Times, Guardian,Metro, and National Public Radio (USA). A major feature on his research was published in The Times. Experiments filmed in his laboratory were shown in the BBC series 'The History of Medicine' (2008). He also keenly engages in broad scientific affairs, recently publishing a view on UK science funding policies in Nature.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (29 Aug 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846145147
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846145148
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.8 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 76,511 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

In 2013, Daniel M Davis became The Director of Research in a Centre for Inflammation Research funded by the University of Manchester, AstraZeneca and GSK. Prior to this, he was the Head of the Immunology and Infection Section at Imperial College London. He previously studied immunology with Professor Jack Strominger at Harvard University, USA, although his PhD and BSc are in Physics. Professor Davis pioneered the use of microscopy to watch an immune response. His research has revealed new cell structures called immune synapses and membrane nanotubes. Professor Davis has published over 100 papers, collectively cited more than 6000 times. He was the recipient of a Lister Prize Fellowship in 2005, a Wolfson Royal Society Merit Award in 2008, and in 2011, he was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Product Description

Review

Who am I? What makes me different from everyone else? Daniel Davis recounts the remarkable science that has answered one version of these questions. He makes immunology as fascinating to popular science readers as cosmology, consciousness, and evolution (Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and the author of 'How the Mind Works' and 'The Better Angels of Our Nature')

There aren't many stories of scientific endeavour that have never been told. This is one of them. Ostensibly about a set of genes that we all have and need, this book is really about the men and women who discovered them and worked out what they do. It's about brilliant insights and lucky guesses; the glory of being proved right and the paralysing fear of getting it wrong; the passion for cures and the lust for Nobels. It's a search for the essence of scientific greatness by a scientist who is headed that way himself (Armand Marie Leroi, author of 'Mutants')

Genes help make us what we are, but in the often overstated claims of what DNA can actually say one crucial section of the double helix has largely been ignored. This book fills that gap. The genes behind our system of diversity code for the clues that control tissue transplants, responses to infection and even sexual success. They are complex indeed but the Compatibility Gene cuts through the complexity to reveal the startling truth about perhaps the most important section of the molecule that defines what it means to be human (Steve Jones, author of 'Almost Like A Whale')

Davis weaves a warm biographical thread through his tale of scientific discovery, revealing the drive and passion of those in the vanguard of research ... unusual results, astonishing implications and ethical dilemmas (The Times)

Davis makes the twists and turns all count (Guardian)

Davis ranges energetically through the research. Cultural references and anecdotes abound (Nature)

A fascinating, expertly told story (Michael Brooks New Statesman)

The genes that make you a true individual ... Davis provides a well-written and easy-to-read account of the sometimes complicated biology behind the crucial genes that affect our lives so profoundly (New Scientist)

Wonderful pen-portraits of the many scientists involved in this fast-moving field ... 5 out of 5 stars (Henry Gee BBC Focus magazine)

Dr. Davis's readable and informative book takes the reader into unexpectedly interesting corners of both the immune system and the lives of immunologists. It is packed with an insider's knowledge - not just of the field, but of where its bodies are buried (Nicholas Wade New York Times)

An elegantly written, unexpectedly gripping account of how scientists painstakingly unravelled the way in which a small group of genes ... crucially influence, and unexpectedly interconnect, various aspects of our lives... Lab work has rarely been made to seem more interesting or heroic (Bill Bryson Guardian, Books of the Year 2013)

About the Author

Daniel M. Davis is director of research at the University of Manchester's Collaborative Centre for Inflammation Research and a visiting professor at Imperial College, London. He has published over 100 academic papers, including papers in Nature and Science, and Scientific American, and lectures all over the world, including at the Royal Institution. He has previously won the Oxford University Press Science Writing Prize, and has given numerous interviews for national and international media, including the Times, Guardian, Metro, and National Public Radio (USA). A major feature on his research was published in The Times. Experiments filmed in his laboratory were shown in the BBC series 'The History of Medicine' (2008). He also keenly engages in broad scientific affairs, recently publishing a view on UK science funding policies in Nature.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who am I? 6 Sep 2013
By Mark
Format:Hardcover
This excellent book by Daniel Davis is a well written and enjoyable account of the personalities and challenges behind the discovery of our most complex genetic system, our compatibility genes. The book explores the science that has cracked the clinical problem of tissue rejection following transplantation and leads us to the exciting new understanding of how our immune system may protect us against cancer and cell damage. The final chapters delve into the role of the immune system and compatibility genes in pregnancy, brain plasticity, mate selection and the essence of individuality.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Visa
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Prof. Davis gives a historical account on the discoveries about the cell-mediated immune system (i.e. T cell and NK cell) related to MHC proteins (i.e. proteins that are involved in immune surveillance and are also responsible for tissue compatibility in the context of organ transplantation). In essence, this book describes how we arrived at our current understanding of how our immune system recognizes self and non-self - how the immune system knows what is part of us and what is foreign. His approach is to describe what kind of problems and questions led to the hypotheses and experiments resulting in key discoveries (e.g. during WWII burns victims were given skin transplants, which were rejected if they were from someone else, and were rejected faster if new transplant from the same donor to the same recipient was made, and how the question of why this occurred stimulated Peter Medawar in his research and finally led to discovery of MHC molecules). The approach taken ensures that anyone with even a most rudimentary understanding of biology (i.e. at the level of what are organs, cells, and proteins) can enjoy the book. For someone completely unfamiliar with immunology the book gives a memorable and highly readable account on how a major part of our immune system works. For a biologist, a physician, or an immunologist the key contribution of this book is to map the road that led to those principles described in immunology textbooks. Indeed, it is unfortunate that the textbooks rarely describe how we came to know the things described in them, for Prof. Davis shows that this can bring the content into life and make it memorable.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Immunology demystified 10 Nov 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Excellent book, well written and just a joy to read. This is the first popular science immunology related book I have read which is not only scientifically spot on but also fun to read. Some of these topics I have struggled to get through to immunology students for years, and now my mum can understand it, I will be out of a job soon!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic story about science. 25 Nov 2013
By Estelle
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Although I waited over 2 weeks to receive "The Compatibility Gene", it was definitely worth the wait. Daniel Davis does a fantastic job at revealing the wonders of the immune system - as I read I was overwhelmed by how influential this part of our genome is in our bodies and my feeling of awe was definitely facilitated by Davis' elegant way with words. He brings the story of the immune system to life with anecdotes about the scientists who have devoted their lives to studying it which are both funny and entertaining while at the same time put into perspective the amount of hard graft and frustration that these people face in their work. I read the book within a few days because it was so well written and entertaining, I'd go as far as to say it was hard to put down at times. I would highly recommend this book to anyone - scientist or non scientist - it is a fabulous example of science being communicated very well.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read! 25 Oct 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Dan Davis tells an excellent story of the pathway of discoveries in immunology over the last century or so. It's a fascianating read and studded with personal stories of scientists who contributed to compatibility genes discoveries. I am a chemist not an immunologist and found it thoroughly enjoyable - highly recommend it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Read 20 Oct 2013
By Mary
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I loved this book for its personal stories about the scientists and clear explanations of the science they worked hard to discover. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in what is happening inside us and how science is moving our understanding of our body forward.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm going to read more popular science now! 16 Oct 2013
By Anna
Format:Kindle Edition
I always thought that fiction books were more fun to read but this one has made me change my mind. I truly enjoyed it and I recommend it to everyone!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read for any audience 10 Oct 2013
By Olivia
Format:Hardcover
The compatibility gene is Professor Davis' first foray into scientific publishing for the general audience. Having a pretty good resume focused around immunology, you know that this book is going to be a good'un. The story starts from the early days of immunology as a subject, introducing the "holy trinity" of Billingham, Brent, and Medawar and their work on transplantation, which led to a Nobel Prize (for Medawar and Brent only, interestingly). Immunology is an all encompassing subject which affects pretty much everything in our bodies, so the thing I really liked about this book is how Davis manages to touch on so much of this with just the right amount of detail, and leaves the reader without feeling short changed of information.

As an aspiring immunologist, this book provides an excellent history of a constantly revolving subject and the thing which surprised me is how recent all the tales were, often meaning Davis had had personal encounters with the person in question, which provides a really unique and personal touch. Another thing I found Davis did really well was incorporating his own research without it feeling like an advertisement for himself or his lab; it just feels relevant. The information is presented in a humbling manor, despite the fact some of his research has been extremely important to the immunology community. This also gives his opinions a certain punch, with the feeling like the words are really from someone in the know!

Overall, I would highly recommend The Compatibility Gene to anyone with an interest in science and biology, particularly immunology. I feel it is an especially useful read for someone at the beginning of a career in science, although I imagine that there is also new information for someone well established. An excellent, motivating read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read filled with humour and fascinating characters - ...
An enjoyable read filled with humour and fascinating characters - you come away with a real appreciation for the excitement and frustrations of science. Read more
Published 2 months ago by P Kennedy
5.0 out of 5 stars An engaging read
I really enjoyed this. It is both accurate and accessible, a difficult compromise in a book about immunology. It is also very interesting and often very funny.
Published 2 months ago by Philip Vandermerwe
3.0 out of 5 stars Somehow the biographical information interferes with the flow of the...
Somehow the biographical information interferes with the flow of the flow of the scientific discoveries so that one has to check back to recall what stage it is at.
Published 2 months ago by Liam Trundle
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, clear and elegantly written book on some crucial genes
Some of the best popular science books tell us as much about the people as the science, and that is the approach taken by Daniel Davis. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Brian Clegg
5.0 out of 5 stars Even great for non scientist
I bought this book initially for my daughter (AS level student) but since she does not have time to read it, I decided to give a go. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Lauriane Bradford
5.0 out of 5 stars A really good read!
I am an old immunologist who lived through much of the era covered in Dan Davies excellent book. By necessity most of us have to specialize in parts of our subject but we maintain... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Michael John
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended
Davis has written an excellent account of how the immune system is heavily linked to our genetics and how our understanding of it has developed much in the last century. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Hennerz
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding who you are and where you come from
Very well written book. Academic and well researched however with a light touch which makes it understandable to a much wider readership.
Published 8 months ago by Jim
5.0 out of 5 stars Fact makes better stories than fiction!
The Compatibility Gene is a fascinating story, brilliantly told by Prof Davis in a way that makes highly complex science accessible to anyone interested in how our immune systems... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Alyson
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