By D.T. Max
For 2 hundred years a noble Venetian kinfolk has suffered from an inherited affliction that moves their individuals in center age, stealing their sleep, consuming holes of their brains, and finishing their lives in a question of months. In Papua New Guinea, a primitive tribe is almost obliterated by way of a disorder whose leader symptom is uncontrollable laughter. throughout Europe, hundreds of thousands of sheep rub their fleeces uncooked earlier than collapsing. In England, cows assault their proprietors within the milking parlors, whereas within the American West, hundreds of thousands of deer starve to loss of life in fields filled with grass.
What those unusual conditions–including deadly familial insomnia, kuru, scrapie, and mad cow disease–share is their reason: prions. Prions are usual proteins that usually get it wrong, leading to neurological health problems which are continually deadly. much more mysterious and scary, prions are virtually very unlikely to wreck simply because they don't seem to be alive and feature no DNA–and the illnesses they carry are actually spreading round the world.
In The relatives That Couldn’t Sleep, essayist and journalist D. T. Max tells the spellbinding tale of the prion’s hidden previous and lethal destiny. via specific 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 farm animals meatier by way of 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 received the Nobel Prize, and one other Nobel winner, Stanley Prusiner, a pushed, feared self-promoter who pointed out the foremost protein that revolutionized prion study.
With outstanding precision, grace, and sympathy, Max–who himself suffers from an inherited neurological illness–explores maladies that experience tormented humanity for hundreds of years and provides cause to pray that sometime treatments could be stumbled on. And he eloquently demonstrates that during our courting to nature and those diseases, we've got been our personal worst enemy.
“The family members that Couldn’t Sleep is a riveting detective tale that plumbs one of many inner most mysteries of biology. the tale takes the reader from the torments of an Italian relations 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, instructed by means of somebody with a really distinct knowing, derived partially from his personal unusual disease. discover a comfortable spot, transparent your time table and dive in.”
– Laurie Garrett, writer of Betrayal of belief and the arrival Plague
“D. T. Max deftly unfolds the mysterious prion in all its villainous guises. even supposing scientists don't absolutely comprehend those proteins–how they mirror and wreak such havoc of their sufferers’ brains–The relatives That Couldn’t Sleep unearths their old, cultural, and medical 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 may stagger your imagination.”
– Philip Weiss, writer of American Taboo
“D.T. Max has mixed the spell binding 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 kinfolk That Couldn’t Sleep is the prion, a tiny little protein that reasons the most terrifying, brain-mangling, creepy illnesses recognized to guy. continually fascinating–how may perhaps it no longer be, on condition that its characters contain cannibals, mad cows, madder sheep, a Nobel prize-winning pedophile, and, such a lot poignantly, an Italian relatives cursed by way of deadly insomnia?–Max’s ebook is additionally a gripping account of clinical discovery, and a heartfelt meditation on what it capacity to be cursed with an incurable, and brutal, illness.” – David Plotz, writer of The Genius Factory
From the Hardcover edition.