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Inheritance: How our Genes Change our Lives - a review

Inheritance Book Cover ImageRecently, as I was browsing the science section of my local bookstore, I spotted a very new release by Sharon Moalem. I was well aware of this author as I had previously reviewed his excellent book Survival of the Sickest. I like his style. He starts with case studies from his practice and then works through the algorithms of his thought processes as he solves medical mysteries. Along the way he gives us a great deal of information regarding not just the specific problem, but the various other diseases that may have been considered when initially presented with the list of symptoms. 

In his most recent book Inheritance: How Our Genes Change Our Lives and Our Lives Change Our Genes, Moalem takes us on a quick journey through our genome...

.... He describes why the sequence is important, and also looks at the expression of the genes and how they can be greatly altered by environmental and other factors. Some of these we have control over, while others may be subject to influences on our parents and grandparents. A key idea that Moalem presents is that of ‘flexible inheritance’.

Moalem reminds us that we probably recognize certain types of dysmorphic signs that illustrate genetic conditions such as Trisomy 21, but that he as a person immersed in the field has learned to recognize many more subtle signs of a wider variety of genetic anomalies. He amuses us with tales of how this can lead him to embarrassingly staring at new acquaintances at dinner parties and other inappropriate times. We learn about bees, royal jelly and epigenetics. We learn too about the effect bullies can have on our genes. Moalem also enlightens us on the importance of diet and ‘personalized’ genetic nutrition. He foresees the day when we use our genetic information to determine our best choice of foods. Later in the book though, he warns us about having too much of our genetic information available online for snoopy insurance companies and big company merchandisers.

Are you wondering if you should read this book? If you like to keep up with some of the most recent advances in genetics that became available with the sequencing of the human genome, this book is for you. If you are a science teacher and you like to illustrate your class discussions with examples from way beyond the textbook, then this is the book to read. Or if you, like me, just enjoy a fun non-fiction read, I highly recommend Sharon Moalem’s latest book Inheritance.

One last thought, if this book leads you to some genetics/genomics questions, DNA Day - Tuesday, April 21, 2015 is a great opportunity to go beyond.

Click here for a complete list of the books I have reviewed.

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Inheritance: How our Genes Change our Lives - a review

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