"How Our Bodies Fight Disease, Attract Others, and Define Our Selves"

Oct 16, 2013

On this edition of StudioTulsa on Health, guest host John Henning Schumann conducts a fascinating interview with Daniel M. Davis, a Professor of Immunology at the University of Manchester in the UK, where he's also the Director of Research at the Manchester Collaborative Center for Inflammation Research. Dr. Davis speaks about his new book, "The Compatibility Gene: How Our Bodies Fight Disease, Attract Others, and Define Our Selves." As was noted of this book recently in The New York Times, in that newspaper's science section: "[It] will enhance most readers' appreciation for the immune system's heroic daily struggles to prevent their body from being overrun by alien life-forms. The book also explores the immune system's reach into realms as unexpected as choosing a mate, wiring the brain, and determining the success of pregnancies.... [Davis] not only writes gracefully but has taken the trouble to interview the major players in [immunology] about how they made their discoveries. His book is enlivened by many details one would not find in an immunology textbook. Which famous immunologist was into sadomasochism? Which told his wife she had first claim on his love but not on his time? Which one wrote a letter to his deceased wife every week? Read all about it here. These biographical details may be irrelevant to understanding the genetic factors that make cells compatible or incompatible with one another.... But they enliven the book and are germane to another of the author's goals, which is to give the reader insights into the sometimes murky processes of science. [Davis] makes clear the arbitrariness of the Nobel Prizes. Many who deserve them don't win them, and quite a few winners --- you know who you are --- arrogated credit for work done by their underlings.... Davis is a productive researcher, in midcareer, and an expert on the immune system's natural killer cells. The book is frequently informed by his insider's perspective. He knows the personal histories and anecdotes of his field, the obstacles that had to be overcome to reach our present state of knowledge, and the substantial uncertainties that dominate the frontiers of research.... The exact nature of the relationship between the brain and the immune system is far from clear, and Davis does a good job of explaining the nuances.... [His] readable and informative book takes the reader into unexpectedly interesting corners of both the immune system and the lives of immunologists. It is packed with an insider's knowledge --- not just of the field, but of where its bodies are buried."