The Compatibility Gene
'An elegantly written, unexpectedly gripping account...lab work has rarely been made to seem more interesting or heroic.' Bill Bryson, Guardian Books of the Year, 2013.
There are around 25,000 human genes. We each have a similar set of these genes but those that vary the most from person to person are: our compatibility genes.
These few genes, argues Daniel M. Davis, influence which diseases we are susceptible and resistant to, whether our tissue and organs can be used in transplantation, what our chances of successful reproduction are, how our brains are wired, and perhaps even how compatible we are with one another.
In exploring the history of these genes' discovery, and the unfolding of their secrets, Daniel M. Davis seeks an answer to questions of how genetic compatibility
affects our relationships, reproduction, medical research and ethics - and, looking to the future, considers the startling possibilities of what our knowledge of these
genes might mean for you and me.
Daniel M. Davis is a renowned scientist who became a Professor at Imperial College London aged 35. He earned a PhD in Physics before studying the immune system at Harvard University, and he is now the Director of Research at The University of Manchester's Collaborative Centre for Inflammation Research. He has published over 100 academic papers, including articles in Nature, Science, and Scientific American. He has previously won the Oxford University Press Science Writing Prize, and has given numerous interviews for national and international media, including the Times, Guardian, Metro, and National Public Radio (USA). In 2011, he was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (UK).
Hear Dan discussing the book on BBC Breakfast, 27/08/2013: What brings two people together.
Visit this page to read reviews of The Compatibility Gene.
Advance praise for 'The Compatibility Gene'
“Who am I? What makes me different from everyone else? Daniel Davis recounts the remarkable science that has answered one version of these questions. He makes immunology as fascinating to popular science readers as cosmology, consciousness, and evolution.”
Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and the author of How the Mind Works and The Better Angels of Our Nature.
“There aren’t many stories of scientific endeavour that have never been told. This is one of them. Ostensibly about a set of genes that we all have and need, this book is really about the men and women who discovered them and worked out what they do. It’s about brilliant insights and lucky guesses; the glory of being proved right and the paralysing fear of getting it wrong; the passion for cures and the lust for Nobels. It’s a search for the essence of scientific greatness by a scientist who is headed that way himself.”
Armand Marie Leroi, author of Mutants
“Genes help make us what we are, but in the often overstated claims of what DNA can actually say one crucial section of the double helix has largely been ignored. This book fills that gap. The genes behind our system of diversity code for the clues that control tissue transplants, responses to infection and even sexual success. They are complex indeed but the Compatibility Gene cuts through the complexity to reveal the startling truth about perhaps the most important section of the molecule that defines what it means to be human.”
Steve Jones, author of The Language of the Genes, Almost Like a Whale and The Serpent's Promise
“What make us truly unique? Our personalities? Maybe, but more fundamental to the identity of each and every one of us is our spectrum of histocompatibility genes. Writing in a way that everyone can follow, Dan Davis tells this intriguing story.”
Peter C Doherty, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine for work on MHC genes
“In a rollicking romp through immunology’s first century, Dan Davis expounds on the extraordinary genes that determine compatibility of donor organs with recipient patients in clinical transplantation. By personalizing human immune systems, the compatibility genes have enabled individuals and populations to resist extinction by epidemic infections. If that were not enough, they also influence our brains, mate selection, and reproductive success. Boasting a particularly rare set of compatibility genes, Davis has a raw talent for evoking the thrill and thrall of scientific research.”
Peter Parham, PhD, FRS, Professor of Structural Biology & Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University & author of best-selling textbook, The Immune System