Friday, February 02, 2007

The Family That Couldn't Sleep by D.T. Max

Okay, here's another one that will make you think twice before biting into that burger! This was a Christmas gift from Mark and I "devoured" it (no pun intended) within a week.

The author traces the story of fatal familial insomnia (FFI) back to a Venetian family in the 1700s. The family suffered from a inherited disease, which strikes in middle age, eats holes in the brain and causes death within a matter of months. The condition is remarkably similar (is it one and the same disease?) to scrapie, which kills sheep and mad cow disease (Creutzfeld-Jakob disease in humans).

These diseases share a common link-they are all "prion" diseases. Prions are proteins, the basic building blocks of life. When healthy, they form ribbon-like structures and fold into specific shapes depending on their specific bodily function. Yet, if only one of them misfolds, it causes all the rest in the ribbon to misfold. At that point they begin to act as infectious agents. Yet, unlike bacteria and viruses, misfolded prions cannot be killed by antibiotics, sterile environments, boiling, radiation, bleach, or formaldehyde. They bond to metal, stay in the soil....

Max traces the history of FFI from Europe to New Guinea to the United States and explains how human greed and ambition have played a role in spreading it across species barriers. For me, the scariest part of the story is that, so far, research has made little progress in understanding this condition and there is still no treatment once "infected".

This is an important book if you want to understand more about prion "diseases". And, the more you know about it, the more you will be tempted to become a vegetarian! This book will spook you.............

1 comment:

Amanda said...

I will totally read that! I need a little push to go back to vegetarianism...maybe this book will be it. Thanks!