Thursday, November 20, 2014

Robert Hooke's Microscope


Robert Hooke's Microscope at the
National Museum of Health and Medicine
photo by CM Doran 2013
Imagine the world explored when Robert Hooke looked into this beautiful microscope.

The card reads:
Microscope, Christopher Cock (London), 1665
This microscope was used by Robert Hooke of the Royal Society, author of Micrographia and first person to apply the cord 'cell' to microscopic structures.
M-030.00276

Monday, November 10, 2014

Reversion: Unintended Consequences

Today, Reversion by Amy Rogers at Science Thrillers is released:  a lab worker on an illicit drug mission, hiding in a cave with bats; a clinical trial of gene therapy at a foreign medical tourism destination (because it was not approved in the States); and assorted characters ranging from sweet and valiant to pure sociopathic. What could possibly go wrong?

The science of rabies, gene therapy, and mutations (to only name a few topics) are well portrayed:
"Disabling the virus was standard procedure when using a virus as a tool in gene therapy. Yes, her clinical trial used a rabies virus, but the virus was designed to be nothing more than a courier that delivered a package of DNA to a specific cellular address. It didn't behave like natural rabies, and it definitely did not make the patient sick. She'd taken great pains to guarantee the safety of her genetically-engineered virus. She had deleted the genes that allowed it to cause disease, and she had crippled the virus's reproduction. Outside the laboratory, it could not copy itself. Which was the reason Gunnar needed to be treated on a regular basis. The gene therapy virus died off, was cleared from his body, and had to be replaced over and over."
Contained within Reversion are Negri bodies and Batten's diseaseat odds with each other. A happy coincidence for the reviewer is that they were discovered in the same year, 1903. This coincidence is not a part of the story, but the lab bench "aha" moment (you will have to read the book to find out what that is) makes this coincidence sublime.

Reversion illustrates multiple ethical dilemmas such as the loss of subjectivity in clinical trials, for-profit medicine, and primate research. In addition, experiments inherently have some error. What effect does the power of nature have on error? 

The power of nature is a great theme, and was also portrayed in Dr. Roger's first well-done book, Petroplague. But Reversion is a more mature read, in content, and in story construction. 

The cover of Reversion shows Mayan glyphs, bats, and virus particles. The drug cartel certainly provides a Mayan underworld tone to the story (this reviewer will not be able to look at an MRI machine the same). But, also setting the tone is Lyssa, Greek Goddess of madness, rage, frenzy, and rabid animals; and there is allusion to King Midasa gift with consequences. The mythological stories are undercurrent, not central to the story. 

Reversion has Sameer, Vargas, and Lyle. They are the most strong characters who seemed either the most sincere, pathetic, or mysterious. The main protagonist, Dr. Tessa Price,  was well-defined, with a misguided sense of duty and an unreasonable fear of needles (read to find out where that gets her). She grows, but maybe not enough to end her story, or Gunnar's story.

Reversion is undeniably a satisfying read, and truly deserves a large audience. It is published by the new Science Thrillers Media, which now has four titles, and is also an invention of Dr. Amy Rogers. Readers have a lot to look forward to with her works.
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