Cracking the Aging

Cracking the Aging Code
The New Science of Growing Old– and What It Means for Staying Young
By Mitteldorf, Josh
Book – 2016

Summary: get exercise and almost starve yourself if you want a long life.

Theories of aging have foundations in the thinking of Darwin, Mendel, Fisher, and Wright. The latter died in 1988, so why are we still struggling with understanding the causes of aging? This book, by an expert in genetics and evolution, explains how aging is not a weakness: it is programmed into our genes.

This is the most readable book I have seen on the topic. For example, it explains how an allele is a version of a gene, and the ‘selfish gene’ should really be the ‘selfish allele’.

The author teaches at MIT, Harvard, and Berkeley, and has research positions at these universities.

300 pages, hardcover, minimal graphs or charts, no illustrations.

Death of Cancer

The Death of Cancer –
After Fifty Years on the Front Lines of Medicine, A Pioneering Oncologist Reveals Why the War on Cancer Is Winnable — and How We Can Get There, Vincent T. DeVita, 2015

This book is intended for the layman, for anyone who wants to know more about cancer. The author talks of experiences in the clinic, treating patients, and in the research lab, investigating medicines. He discusses how he discovered that medicines can be combined for use in chemotherapy. I like that his lab emphasized the scientific method, at a time when other research hospitals seemed unscientific.

The author is the researcher who discovered how to treat Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This type of cancer was the first one for which a cure was discovered, and the author was the first to be bold enough to use the word ‘cure’ when speaking at conferences. He discusses the politics of cancer research, how a research institute can become single-minded in focussing on radiation or surgery to the exclusion of other valid types of treatment. And how politics can determine which institute gets funding, while another more ‘advanced’ institute can be left with inadequate funding (we are talking of large amounts of money, billions of dollars).

The book is well written and engaging, you will not want to put it down. Perhaps it is mostly ‘history’ and not appropriate for mention here, along with books on new technology. But the author has a very current message about the policies of the FDA, which lag far behind the advances of modern medicine. He makes his point real at the start of the book, by talking of the recent death of a friend due to the conservatism of the FDA and of hospital staff.

Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease – Why It’s Spreading, How It Makes You Sick, and What to Do About It By Alan G. Barbour, Book – 2015

Our knowledge of Lyme disease and related diseases has been improving in the last few years. Lyme is notable because it is hard to diagnose and its long term effects are debilitating, including arthritis and nerve damage. The aparrent increase in incidence of the disease could be due to it previously being mistaken for other diseases. This book stands out from others as being authoritative while still quite readable.