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beyond our genes

Raffaelle Teperino (Ed.)
Springer, £139.99

Gene composition, flexibility, and modification have become significant research areas in recent years. The emerging field of epigenetics, a form of inheritance, involves studies on alterations in gene activity caused by environmental factors rather than changes in DNA. This represents a major development in biology in general and specifically in understanding inheritance. It is also important in identifying, understanding and treating a range of human diseases which include diabetes, obesity plus some types of cancer and possibly some psychiatric disorders.

This book comprises three parts, each with four chapters. Part I examines the physiology of gene/environment interactions. The factors discussed are food and nutrition, circadian rhythms, environment-endocrine relationships in male reproduction, and the later life impact of the prenatal disruption of endocrine systems. Part II focuses on the relationship between gene-environment interaction and disease susceptibility.

Chapters highlight issues related to metabolic disturbance e.g. diabetes and obesity, cancer, various psychiatric issues, and autoimmune disease. Part III compares and contrasts inheritance related to genome and epigenome. As well as definitions, specific issues examined include DNA methylation and non-coding RNAs while the final chapter highlights possible future developments. A significant value of epigenetic knowledge lies in the development of novel approaches to a range of medical issues.

There are 35 contributors to this book from a wide variety of institutions. The subject matter requires some prior knowledge of this research frontier but each chapter is detailed and contains a long reference list. The high cost, however, will mean that it is most likely to be purchased only by libraries and/or institutions.

Dr A M Mannion