Reviews for The Song Of The Cell

by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Physician-writer Mukherjee (The Gene: An Intimate History, 2016) pays homage to the basic units of all living things, cells. He draws on scientific breakthroughs and medical history, bountiful cellular biology, and current clinical therapies for cancer. Mukherjee's main message emphasizes discovery and opportunities. Cells can be reengineered or repurposed, resulting in transformative medical treatments. He portrays various patients, including a girl whose T cells are manipulated to attack her childhood leukemia, and presents an excellent recounting of the "birth" of in vitro fertilization (IVF), a kind of cell therapy. Mukherjee's coverage of early efforts at bone marrow transplantation is heart-tugging. A discussion of stem cells is first-rate. Certain cells do the darnedest things. For example, microglia cells in the nervous system are assigned the task of "pruning" neural synapses (connections between neurons). Mukherjee allows bits of his personal life to trickle into the discourse, such as how he was "overwhelmed by the most profound wave of depression." In all, this is a distinctive ode to cells—their structure and function, commonalities, diversities, interconnectedness, and limitless possibilities—infused with a sense of wonder and humanity.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Pulitzer Prize-winner Mukherjee is a top medical writer with a surefire readership.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A luminous journey into cellular biology. Mukherjee, a physician, professor of medicine, and Pulitzer Prize–winning author (The Emperor of All Maladies), has a knack for explaining difficult ideas in terms that are both straightforward and interesting. In his latest, he punctuates his scientific explanations with touching, illustrative stories of people coping with cell-based illnesses, tracking how the knowledge gleaned from those cases contributed to further scientific advancement. In the early chapters, the author traces the discovery of cells as the building blocks of animal and plant life, with the invention of the microscope making analysis possible. With this development, researchers could better understand the roles of cells in human physiology, including the illnesses that rogue cells could cause. In the middle section, Mukherjee investigates how scientists then moved on to study the processes through which cells become specialized by function and how some turn cancerous. The identification of the phases of cell division and the discovery of DNA were crucial breakthroughs, opening the way for a new generation of treatments. Mukherjee occasionally digresses from the historical story to provide vivid portraits of key researchers, with recollections about his own work. The final section of the book deals with emerging areas of research such as cell manipulation and gene editing as well as new technologies like transplantation. It’s all unquestionably exciting, but the author is careful to acknowledge the knotty ethical considerations. Treating embryos for cellular abnormalities makes medical sense, but the idea of altered human beings has worrying implications. Mukherjee also emphasizes that there is still a great deal we do not know about cells, especially the interactions between types. Understanding the mechanics is one thing, he notes; hearing “the song of the cell” is something else. This poignant idea serves as a suitable coda for a fascinating story related with clarity and common sense. Another outstanding addition to the author’s oeuvre, which we hope will continue to grow for years to come. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A luminous journey into cellular biology.Mukherjee, a physician, professor of medicine, and Pulitzer Prizewinning author (The Emperor of All Maladies), has a knack for explaining difficult ideas in terms that are both straightforward and interesting. In his latest, he punctuates his scientific explanations with touching, illustrative stories of people coping with cell-based illnesses, tracking how the knowledge gleaned from those cases contributed to further scientific advancement. In the early chapters, the author traces the discovery of cells as the building blocks of animal and plant life, with the invention of the microscope making analysis possible. With this development, researchers could better understand the roles of cells in human physiology, including the illnesses that rogue cells could cause. In the middle section, Mukherjee investigates how scientists then moved on to study the processes through which cells become specialized by function and how some turn cancerous. The identification of the phases of cell division and the discovery of DNA were crucial breakthroughs, opening the way for a new generation of treatments. Mukherjee occasionally digresses from the historical story to provide vivid portraits of key researchers, with recollections about his own work. The final section of the book deals with emerging areas of research such as cell manipulation and gene editing as well as new technologies like transplantation. Its all unquestionably exciting, but the author is careful to acknowledge the knotty ethical considerations. Treating embryos for cellular abnormalities makes medical sense, but the idea of altered human beings has worrying implications. Mukherjee also emphasizes that there is still a great deal we do not know about cells, especially the interactions between types. Understanding the mechanics is one thing, he notes; hearing the song of the cell is something else. This poignant idea serves as a suitable coda for a fascinating story related with clarity and common sense.Another outstanding addition to the authors oeuvre, which we hope will continue to grow for years to come. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Publishers Weekly
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A better understanding of the cell holds immense power for medicine according to this eye-opening account from Pulitzer winner Mukherjee (The Emperor of All Maladies). He begins with the ground-breaking realization from two 19th-century scientists that every bit of plant and animal tissue in the world is made up of microscopic cells. Since then, Mukherjee writes, there has been “a revolution in the making, and a history (and future) that had been unwritten: of cells, of our capacity to manipulate cells.” An extraordinarily gifted storyteller, Mukherjee offers an expansive chronology of discovery in cell therapies (such as IVF) and setbacks, such as the use of thalidomide for pregnancies in the 1960s. He also includes stories of what he calls “new humans”—Mukherjee clarifies that the term isn’t a sci-fi-inspired “vision of the future,” but rather everyday folks whose health has been restored by advances in cellular manipulation and engineering, such as a patient who recovered from leukemia with cell therapy. The author’s ideas about the near future of medicine (one in which medicine will “perhaps even create synthetic versions of cells, and parts of humans”) are both convincing and inspiring, and woven throughout his narrative are accessible explanations of cell biology and immunology. This is another winner from Mukherjee. (Oct.)


Library Journal
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Mukherjee gives us the story of those minuscule, self-regulating packages called cells, from their groundbreaking discovery by English scientist/architect Robert Hooke and Dutch cloth merchant Antonie van Leeuwenhoek to revolutionary new ways cells are being manipulated today to improve human health. Following the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Emperor of All Maladies and the No. 1 New York Times best-selling The Gene.

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