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A highly readable and enjoyable account on how the discoveries about the self/non-self discrimination were made
on 5 August 2014
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.