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NEW BIOLOGY AND GENETIC DISEASE

By Bakhtavar S Mahajan,

Medha Rajadhyaksha Publisher, Oxford University, Press.

The second half of the 20th century has seen scientific progress take a quantum leap in the areas of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Gene mapping, cloning, Test tube babies are familiar words to all and sundry, highlighted as they have been by the media. At this juncture, it is but natural that there will be a large number of books disseminating information to the lay person. The authors have obviously this as their objective and need to be complimented on their efforts.

Written lucidly and almost conversational in style, the book starts with a story of a fictitious couple from a community where the incidence of Thalassaemia is high. How is Thalassaemia inherited? How is it passed on? From these basic questions, the authors take us on a long journey where we meet the genes carrying the disease, we learn about their mode of inheritance, and we see the chromosomes that are the carriers of genes. Illustrated by diagrams and humorous cartoons, the explanations are simple to understand.

In the following chapters, the authors start with a description of how fertilization takes place, the two types of cell division - mitosis and meiosis, and the way in which there can be an abnormal cell division. With a special chapter on the Human Genome Project and Gene Therapy, the authors move on to the practical aspect - Genetic Counseling and how diseases can be detected in a pregnant woman. Techniques used in prenatal diagnosis - Chorionic Villi sampling and Amniocentesis are introduced to the readers. A list of Institutes where such facilities are available is given, but it would have been more practical and useful to compile a glossary of all centers in the private sector as well, for such centers have been offering these services perhaps for a longer period.

The authors with their experience in research and teaching have been particular in clarifying the subtle differences between inherited disorders and congenital abnormalities - terms, which are confusing to many. They have also emphasized the ethical and medico-legal problems in the dissemination of genetic information to individuals and to whom such information should be made available.

The language of the book and specially the editing are exemplary, making it simple even for readers with a non-scientific background. With an attractive cover and affordable by present day standards, the book is a must not only for students, teachers of science, and the general public but even for the medical fraternity.

HEMA PURANDARE
Medical and Reproductive Geneticist
Centre for Genetic Health Care, Mumbai 50.


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