books book reviews

DNA and gene technology books

reviewed by T. Nelson

book review Score+3

Genome Editing in Neurosciences
Rudolf Jaenisch, Feng Zhang, Fred Gage, eds.
Springer, 2018, 123 pages

Reviewed by T. Nelson

There's a new trend, led by Springer, for publishing scientific books under a Creative Commons license, which means you can either download a copy for free or buy a hard copy. So far it's being led by books that are too short or too fringe-y to become big sellers. It's good for science, and it's good for the publisher, which benefits from measuring interest in emerging or niche topics.

Two examples that I'm reading are Physical (A)Causality: Determinism, Randomness and Uncaused Events by Karl Svozil, and this book, which is a collection of scientific review papers on CRISPR.

By now everyone's heard the fear-mongering about CRISPR. It's a new technology that makes it easy for scientists to perform genome editing on cells. That means they can put human disease-causing genes into a dish of cultured cells to learn how to understand and treat diseases. They can knock out genes easily to see how they work. And, most importantly, they can use them for gene therapy.

An example is the chapter by Bailus, Zhang, and Ellerby, who used CRISPR to learn how common single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, can be used to treat Huntington's disease. Huntington's disease is a devastating genetic disorder that causes debilititating movement symptoms, psychiatric disturbances, and death. Although people have searched for ways to eliminate the mutant HTT protein or normalize the disturbed biochemical pathways, there is little hope of curing the disease without correcting the mutation. These authors describe how CRISPR could someday be used for gene replacement therapy.

Another example is muscular dystrophy. Doctors have been trying to cure this disease by using harmless viruses like AAV to deliver replacement dystrophin protein. This will never be a permanent cure; only repairing the gene can do that. So researchers are using CRISPR to create specially modified cells, derived from adult stem cells, that can be injected back into the patient to restore normal function. This puts CRISPR in the category not of a threat, but a wonder drug. It's the latest proof that the Human Genome Sequencing project did indeed lead to a revolution in medicine.

may 26, 2018

book review