By D.T. Max
For 2 hundred years a noble Venetian family members has suffered from an inherited disorder that moves their contributors in center age, stealing their sleep, consuming holes of their brains, and finishing their lives in an issue of months. In Papua New Guinea, a primitive tribe is sort of obliterated through a illness whose leader symptom is uncontrollable laughter. throughout Europe, thousands of sheep rub their fleeces uncooked ahead of collapsing. In England, cows assault their vendors within the milking parlors, whereas within the American West, hundreds of thousands of deer starve to loss of life in fields jam-packed with grass.
What those unusual conditions–including deadly familial insomnia, kuru, scrapie, and mad cow disease–share is their reason: prions. Prions are traditional proteins that usually get it wrong, leading to neurological health problems which are regularly deadly. much more mysterious and scary, prions are nearly very unlikely to break simply because they don't seem to be alive and feature no DNA–and the illnesses they carry at the moment are spreading round the world.
In The family members That Couldn’t Sleep, essayist and journalist D. T. Max tells the spellbinding tale of the prion’s hidden previous and lethal destiny. via particular interviews and unique archival learn, Max explains this story’s connection to human greed and ambition–from the Prussian chemist Justus von Liebig, who made livestock meatier via feeding them the flesh of different cows, to New Guinean natives whose customized of consuming the brains of the lifeless approximately wiped them out. The biologists who've investigated those afflictions are only as extraordinary–for instance, Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, a self-described
“pedagogic pedophiliac pediatrician” who cracked kuru and gained the Nobel Prize, and one other Nobel winner, Stanley Prusiner, a pushed, feared self-promoter who pointed out the major protein that revolutionized prion study.
With notable precision, grace, and sympathy, Max–who himself suffers from an inherited neurological illness–explores maladies that experience tormented humanity for hundreds of years and offers cause to pray that sometime treatments may be stumbled on. And he eloquently demonstrates that during our dating to nature and those diseases, now we have been our personal worst enemy.
“The kin that Couldn’t Sleep is a riveting detective tale that plumbs one of many private mysteries of biology. the tale takes the reader from the torments of an Italian relatives cursed with sleeplessness to the mad cows of britain (and, now, America), following an not likely path of misfolded proteins. D. T. Max unfolds his soaking up narrative with infrequent grace and makes the technology sing.” –Michael Pollan, writer of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and The Botany of Desire
“Much has been written approximately prions and Mad Cow Disease–nearly it all is valueless. fortunately, from the realm of journalism comes D.T. Max to set issues correct. Throw all these different “Mad Cow” books within the trash: this can be the publication to examine prions–or no matter what you need to name them. It’s a riveting story, advised via anyone with a really certain knowing, derived partly from his personal unusual disorder. discover a comfortable spot, transparent your agenda and dive in.”
– Laurie Garrett, writer of Betrayal of belief and the arriving Plague
“D. T. Max deftly unfolds the mysterious prion in all its villainous guises. even though scientists don't absolutely comprehend those proteins–how they reflect and wreak such havoc of their sufferers’ brains–The family members That Couldn’t Sleep unearths their historic, cultural, and clinical position in our international. arrange to be enlightened, entertained, and frightened.”
–Katrina Firlik, MD, writer of Another Day within the Frontal Lobe
“A nice book. D.T. Max has drawn the curtain on a cupboard of folly and illness that might stagger your imagination.”
– Philip Weiss, writer of American Taboo
“D.T. Max has mixed the mesmerizing clinical anthropology of Oliver Sacks with the gothic horror of Stephen King to supply a scientific detective tale that's as clever because it is spooky. The villain of The relations That Couldn’t Sleep is the prion, a tiny little protein that factors one of the most terrifying, brain-mangling, creepy ailments identified to guy. continually fascinating–how might it no longer be, on condition that its characters comprise cannibals, mad cows, madder sheep, a Nobel prize-winning pedophile, and, such a lot poignantly, an Italian kinfolk cursed by way of deadly insomnia?–Max’s publication can be a gripping account of clinical discovery, and a heartfelt meditation on what it capability to be cursed with an incurable, and brutal, illness.” – David Plotz, writer of The Genius Factory
From the Hardcover edition.