Staff Review: My Beautiful Genome
My Beautiful Genome
The judges comment, when shortlisting My Beautiful Genome by Lone Frank for the (London) Royal Society Winton Prize 2012 which is awarded for “stimulating, engaging, clear, accessible, and high-quality” science books, says it all about this book. The judges said: “My Beautiful Genome puts a personal story at the heart of the science. To some extent we are all narcissists and we want to learn more about ourselves, Frank provides us with an insight into how our genes help to define us. She keeps you wanting to read more.”
Frank, a science journalist, has a PhD in neurobiology and a special interest in behavioural genetics. The science is complex but I found Frank to be good at translating it into layman’s terms particularly when reflecting on her own genetic markers and putting it into the context of her own life. The tone of her writing is darkly humorous which makes the science that much easier to understand. All the science is referenced in the Notes at the end of the book.
In a deeply personal account, Frank explores her biological inheritance revealing her family history of and her battle with depression. Frank’s results confirm that she has inherited “two short variants” from both parents – genetic markers for depression. Her biomarkers show that her body has experienced depression. Compelling information for Frank to deal with.
Along the way there are interviews with the researchers and the entrepreneurs who are applying this genetic research; consideration of the pros and cons of genetic discoveries and of the philosophical and ethical issues; interesting questions; and consumer genomics. Essentially your genome gives you a risk assessment which you can take steps to prevent or deal with. Genetic profiling is most often used to establish risk for medical conditions such as Alzheimers which is the ApoE4 gene.
Frank clarifies the hottest topic in genetics – epigenetics – where a genetic predisposition is acted on by the environment.
Our genes are not our destiny, although as Frank explains, the genes that we inherit do play a part in the life that we get. Increasingly our society is accepting of this to the point that in the future, genetic knowledge – knowing your genome, genetic testing, and genetic screening – will be commonplace. My Beautiful Genome is an excellent introduction.
Find the book here, and buy at your local bookshop.
Also by Lone Frank
The Neurotourist: Postcards from the Edge of Brain Science
Published July 2011
Reading gives me exposure to ideas and knowledge that I would never otherwise explore.