By D.T. Max
For 2 hundred years a noble Venetian kin has suffered from an inherited illness that moves their contributors in heart 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 sort of obliterated via a disorder whose leader symptom is uncontrollable laughter. throughout Europe, thousands of sheep rub their fleeces uncooked sooner than collapsing. In England, cows assault their vendors within the milking parlors, whereas within the American West, millions 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 constantly deadly. much more mysterious and scary, prions are nearly most unlikely to break simply because they don't seem to be alive and feature no DNA–and the illnesses they bring about 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 earlier and lethal destiny. via particular interviews and unique archival study, Max explains this story’s connection to human greed and ambition–from the Prussian chemist Justus von Liebig, who made farm animals meatier through feeding them the flesh of different cows, to New Guinean natives whose customized of consuming the brains of the useless 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 most important protein that revolutionized prion study.
With striking 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 wish that sometime therapies might be came across. And he eloquently demonstrates that during our dating to nature and those diseases, we've got 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 kin cursed with sleeplessness to the mad cows of britain (and, now, America), following an not going 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 area of journalism comes D.T. Max to set issues correct. Throw all these different “Mad Cow” books within the trash: this is often the booklet to examine prions–or no matter what you need to name them. It’s a riveting story, informed by way of an individual with a truly specific knowing, derived partly from his personal unusual disease. discover a comfortable spot, transparent your agenda 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 though scientists don't totally comprehend those proteins–how they reflect and wreak such havoc of their sufferers’ brains–The kin That Couldn’t Sleep finds their ancient, cultural, and medical position in our international. organize 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 clinical detective tale that's as clever because it is spooky. The villain of The kin That Couldn’t Sleep is the prion, a tiny little protein that reasons essentially the most terrifying, brain-mangling, creepy ailments recognized to guy. consistently fascinating–how may possibly it no longer be, provided that its characters contain cannibals, mad cows, madder sheep, a Nobel prize-winning pedophile, and, so much poignantly, an Italian family members cursed through deadly insomnia?–Max’s ebook is usually a gripping account of medical discovery, and a heartfelt meditation on what it ability to be cursed with an incurable, and brutal, illness.” – David Plotz, writer of The Genius Factory
From the Hardcover edition.