Stem cells could be the key that unlocks cures to scores of diseases and illnesses. Their story is at once compelling, controversial, and remarkable. Part detective story, part medical history, The Proteus Effect recounts the events leading up to the discovery of stem cells and their incredible potential for the future of medicine.
What exactly are these biological wonders these things called stem cells? They may be tiny, but their impact is earth shaking, generating excitement among medical researchers and outright turmoil in political circles. They are reported to be nothing short of miraculous. But they have also incited fear and mistrust in many. Indeed, recent research on stem cells raises important questions as rapidly as it generates new discoveries.
The power of stem cells rests in their unspecialized but marvelously flexible nature. They are the clay of life waiting for the cellular signal that will coax them into taking on the shape of the beating cells of the heart muscle or the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. With a wave of our medical magic wand, it s possible that stem cells could be used to effectively treat (even cure) diseases such as Parkinson's disease, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, and even baldness.
But should scientists be allowed to pick apart four-day-old embryos in order to retrieve stem cells? And when stem cells whisper to us of immortality they can divide and perpetuate new cells indefinitely how do we respond? Stem cells are forcing us to not only reexamine how we define the beginning of life but how we come to terms with the end of life as well.
Meticulously researched, artfully balanced, and engagingly told, Ann Parson chronicles a scientific discovery in progress, exploring the ethical debates, describing the current research, and hinting of a spectacular new era in medicine. The Proteus Effect is as timely as it is riveting.
Named to Library Journal's Best Sci-Tech Books for General Readers list for 2004
"One of the most timely and topical popular science books of the year, this title gives the essential background, puts forth the possibilities, and also grapples with the sensitive moral issues involved with this kind of research."
-- Library Journal
"Parson does a thorough and thoughtful job of discussing the potentials of stem celln medicine and the challenges, both scientific and political, that it is facing. By providing readers with enough solid information to make up their own minds on stem cell research, The Proteus Effect
should have a pretty good legacy of its own. It may well be the most important science book of the year."
-- San Jose Mercury News
, October 3, 2004
"...a well-researched, highly readable book... Parson wonderfully describes the discovery of both types [embryonic and adult] of cells."
-- The New York Post
, August 8
"For those seeking to understand the science of stem cells -- and not just the politics -- this book is a good start."
-- San Diego Union-Tribune
, Eureka column, November 3, 2004
"...a breezy, easily accessible narrative of the people, results and ideas that have shaped the field. ... Parson engages the debate between supporters and opponents of human embryo research by allowing the main players to speak for themselves. She doesn't advocate for or against, although the book's subtitle leaves no doubt as to her own position. The final chapter provides a balanced assessment of the therapeutic potential of stem cells in both the short and the long term disease by disease and organ by organ. All in all, Parson admirably brings to life the stem-cell story from a tiny Maine fishing village to the battle for the American presidency in 2004."
-- Lee M. Silver, Nature
, October 21, 2004
"[A] timely and objective book... The information provided is easily understandable to the general reader yet advanced enough to satisfy the scientific mind. This is an important book for anyone seeking to formulate a truly informed opinion on the stem cell debate."
, April 2005
"[Parson] has the rare ability to make the complex world of science understandable for the general reader. ... Ms. Parson clarifies for the non-scientist what stem cells are, how they differentiate, what cell transplantation is, and explains the difference between embryonic and adult stem-cell research. ... The great virtue of The Proteus Effect
is that it makes this complex and awe-inspiring scientific endeavor commonsensical to her readers, too."
-- The Standard-Times
, October 16, 2004
"Ann B. Parson has written a timely and cogent account of the history of stem-cell research and the prospects for its future clinical applications. ... Most importantly, Parson highlights the complexities involved in the work and tempers the hype that stem-cell-generated cures are just around the corner."
-- The New Republic
, November 1, 2004
"...[an] engaging and well-researched account of stem-cell research ... Most current books on stem-cell research are technical, somewhat biased, or told from one point of view. Parson has presented a fair, well-rounded view of the subject."
-- Library Journal
, September 15, 2004
"Arguably the most exciting, promising and controversial medical research being performed today explores the potential of stem cells, unique cells that, when dividing, can produce either more cells like themselves or other specialized cells, such as heart cells, skin cells and neurons science journalist Parson takes us through [the] history, ranging from 18th-century natural philosophers discovery of seemingly immortal organisms to the exploration, two centuries later, of curious mouse tumors, called teratomas, that may unlock the secrets of the human embryo."
-- Publishers Weekly
, July 26, 2004
"While her account is well researched and balanced, Parson writes with a journalist's eye for the human interest story, personalizing the history with narratives about scientists' experiments and discoveries. She concludes the volume with a realistic view of the possible benefits of stem cell research."
-- Book News
, December 2004
"[An] informative and richly detailed, but also easy to read book. From one point of view it looks like a history title that chronicles the most important researchers and their most important breakthroughs. From another it effortlessly fills in the hard science background without tipping over the edge into obscurity, or aiming too low and created a dumbed down mess. Parson successfully explains both the controversy and the potential... This is one of the most informative books on the subject available, and essential reading for anyone who wants to know what the fuss is really about."
, April 05
"A fascinating look at what research into fetal stem cells has to say about not only the latest modern medicine, but also the aging process and the destiny of humanity itself. ... An absolute must-read for anyone seeking to learn more about this controversial research and the new discoveries constantly being gleaned from it."
-- MBR: The Health/Medicine Shelf
"Stem cell research lies at the center of a confused and overwrought political debate. What a relief, then, that Ann Parson has produced such a clear-eyed book on the subject. She's an easy-going and knowledgeable guide who takes us through the history of stem cells research, the current scientific landscape and the realistic prospects for the decades ahead. This book is required reading for anyone who wishes to understand one of the most intriguing medical developments of our time."
-- Douglas Starr, author of BLOOD: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce
and co-director, The Center for Science and Medical Journalism, Boston University
"Ann Parson is one of the best science writers of our time, with mastery of both technical details and personal biography. How fortunate for us to have this study at a time when stem cell research has been severely handicapped by religious ideology."
-- David S. Landes, professor emeritus of history and economics at Harvard University and the author of The Wealth and Poverty of Nations
and The Unbound Prometheus
"This important book explains why stem cells could help defeat diseases from juvenile diabetes to Parkinson's while critiquing President Bush's decision to place restrictions on stem cell research."
-- Raleigh News & Observer
, November 27, 2005
"This book would be valuable to any high school or college biology student, both for its science and for its history... All the hot-button issues, such as embryo stem cells, fetal stem cells, and cloning, are smoothly integrated into the larger story."
--National Science Teachers Association