Medical biochemistry at a glance: by B Greenstein and N Greenstein. pp 117. Blackwell Science, Oxford, 1996. £9.95
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ations, but is especially important as the major underpinning of modern medicine and its many subspecialties.
This book is a trend-setter. It demonstrates what can be achieved by close collaboration between dedicated teachers of Medical Biochemistry and up-to-date and widely knowledgeable practitioners of Molecular Medicine. I believe that it sets the standard against which future textbooks of biochemistry tar- geted at medical students will be judged. I recommend it strongly for these students.
Medical Biochemistry at a Glance
by B Greenstein and N Greenstein. pp 117. Blackwell Science, Oxford, 1996. 9.95 ISBN 0-86542-980-4
Biochemistry by Diagrams
by E Y St A Morrison. pp 90. Canoe Press, University of the West Indies. 1995 ISBN 976-8125-17-9
Both these soft-cover books rely on the power of illustrations as a primary tool of communication. They are intended to help students (mostly medical, but also others in the human sciences) learn material presented in much greater detail in standard textbooks of biochemistry of which there is now quite a broad variety. Neither is intended to replace such textbooks. Their aim is similar to that of Campbell and Smith's Biochemistry Illus- trated (Churchill-Livingstone) that has gone to several editions and has proved to be quite popular. Medical Biochemistry at a Glance is the larger and more comprehensive of the two books considered here. It is written by (I suspect) a father-and-son team, the former a research endocrinologist, the latter a medical student with an honors degree. Their book is the most recent one in the Blackwell's at a Glance series to which the senior author has already contributed the Endocrinology volume. It uses the standard two-page format of this series, one page dedi- cated mostly to illustration, the other mostly to text. There are 51 chapters that fall neatly into two groups. Chapters 1 to (and including) 26 deal with topics in cell and molecular biology. Chapters 27 to (and including) 51 deal with traditional bio- chemistry topics, and include two chapters on gas transport and hemoglobin, and one on molecular chaperones. The brief inclu- sion of clinically relevant material in some chapters and the selection of topics justify the first word of the title. There is a three-page glossary and a list of sources that includes several articles in Trends in Biochemical Sciences (1994).
The illustrations are in varying shades of somber gray, several being quite 'busy'. I detected quite a few errors in structural formulae and some factual errors including instances in which the illustration does not faithfully reflect the intent of the text. A number of factual errors in the text should have been detected by the expert reviewers. ! found irritating the frequent use of 'enzyme' as a qualifier (eg ATP synthase enzyme), the incon- sistency in use of terminology related to derivatives of glycerol (eg monoglyceride and monoacylglyccrol in the same para- graph), and the repeated use of the prefix bi (eg fructose, 1,6-biphosphate) rather than b/s, and the frequent reference to ACP as a distinct protein rather than as domain in mammalian fatty acid synthase (in chapter 42). I must admit to being much more critical of such weaknesses than many users of this book are likely to be.
Biochemistry by Diagrams is a more modest offering being at a much more introductory level, and essentially a memory aid for students at the University of the West Indies. This is the best way to explain the inclusion of a two-page history of trials and successes of the Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of
Medical Sciences of that University. The material is grouped into three sections: Structure and Function (pp 1-30), Metabo- lism (pp 32-80), and Special Topics (pp 82-85). Major emphasis is on traditional biochemistry, with cell and molecular biology being assigned less than 10 pages. Most diagrams are concerned with structural formulae. There is much less scope for error here, but this did not ensure total freedom from error. Unfortu- nately I am not familiar with the two editions of The Essentials of Biochemistry for Medical Students that an author's note and the back cover announce this present book replaces.
These two books have a part to play in the never-ending task of helping some medical and other health science students learn at least the basic terminology of biochemistry. Because of its wider scope the former is more likely to be useful at university level, the latter at high school level.
The Biology of Disease
Edited by J Phillips and P Murray. pp 310. Blackwell Science, Oxford 1995. 15.95 ISBN 0-632-03855-1
This is a multi-author volume with two editors and in addition an associate editor who is a pathologist. It aims to discuss biological principles, disease processes and clinical relevance and the edi- tors envisage that the book will be useful to a wide range of reader, particularly medical students approaching their clinical studies, students of clinical and biomedical sciences and students of other paramedical subjects. I suspect that the 'wide range of readers' will also need a medical dictionary: many terms used are not defined or explained.
There are 33 contributors, many of whom are medically qualified, and 34 chapters. As will be seen, these are inevitably quite short and, considering the range of topics covered, leave one feeling somewhat unsatisfied. I felt that some parts were rather over-simplified (almost highschool level) whereas other parts were at the high level of a pathology textbook. Indeed, the book cannot really decide whether it is about pathology or biology. The editors have ensured a more or less uniform style in spite of having so many contributors. The style itself is clear and precise, although rather dry and unfriendly. With so many topics in such a small space there is not the room to be chatty.
There are 8 parts, each containing several chapters. Part 1 is the introduction and contains a very good essay on 'The Nature of Disease'. Part 2 is on host responses to injury (inflammation, the immune system). Part 3 is on infection (from viruses to parasites), Part 4 on immunological disorders (hypersensitivity, autoimmunity) and Part 5 is on nutritional and gastro-intestinal disorders (including jaundice). Part 6 is on blood and circulatory disorders (eg anaemia in 9 pages), haemostasis, hypertension, Part 7 is on genetic disorders and part 8 is on Neoplasia. Finally Part 9 is on psychiatric disorders, although the authors admit that the biology of mental illness is a convenient but inaccurate shorthand for the belief that physical factors contribute to the aetiology of mental illness.
In addition to the chapters, practically every part has one or two Case Studies. These are given as: clinical features, investiga- tions, diagnosis, discussion, treatment and prognosis, and ques- tions, typically occupying 2 pages. They could be used in problem-based sessions, but in the present format it is too easy to read the diagnosis whilst reading the clinical features. They are quite well done but the range is rather limited.
There are quite a lot of photographs and diagrams. The quality of many of the photos, especially the histology, is poor (the whole book is black and white), but quite a lot of imagina- tion has been put into the diagrams. These seem to have been done on a computer, and some are too big for the amount of information they contain (eg that on pl15). There is also an unrealistic haem/haemoglobin on p167.
BIOCHEMICAL EDUCATION 24(4) 1996