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The Language of Life

DNA and the Revolution in Personalized Medicine

The Language of Life
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US$ 11.49

From New York Times bestselling author and world-renowned doctor and geneticist Francis Collins, a book that will forever change how you think about your body, your health, and the future of medicine.

A scientific and medical revolution has crept up on us, based on study after study, from hundreds of laboratories around the world. It is no longer just a theoretical shift: every one of us will be touched by it, and many of us already have been. The meaning of disease, our understanding of the human body, and crucial decisions about what we all need to know and what choices we make about our health are at stake. Welcome to the new world of personalized medicine.

Twenty-one million Americans are affected by 6,000 so-called rare and orphan diseases, many of which are primarily attributable to misspelled genes. And virtually all diseases have a significant hereditary component. There have been many stories in the media about women who are testing to see if they have a mutation that leads to breast cancer, or family members who are strongly at risk for heart disease or Huntington's disease. Yet the revolution is much more fundamental than this: diabetes, heart disease, the common cancers, mental illness, asthma, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and more—all of these diseases are having their secrets unlocked. Now, with a simple home test, costing a few hundred dollars, you can learn the secrets of your own DNA.

Francis Collins has been at the forefront of this revolution. He was, for fifteen years, the head of the international Human Genome Project, and he now serves as the Director of the National Institutes of Health. He knows, better than anyone, how widespread are the misperceptions about human genetics. Just in the past decade, most of what you think you know about DNA has been overturned. Much of the advice given routinely by health care providers is ill informed, so you need to educate yourself about this rapidly moving area of medicine. You are guaranteed to face some surprises, and some difficult choices about personal knowledge, treatment, and family risk.

Yet this book is overwhelmingly hopeful and inspiring, offering helpful advice in every chapter. Nearly every day, diseases that were barely understood, or completely misunderstood, are being redefined. Families that faced common problems, without hope, are now discovering a new world of understanding, treatment, and prevention. You owe it to yourself to learn about your DNA: how it works, what it reveals, and the benefits and limits of this new knowledge.

HarperCollins; February 2010
368 pages; ISBN 9780061963490
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