‘The Gene’ runs with a series of personal stories: Author Siddhartha Mukherjee

New Delhi, July 6 (IANS) “The Gene: An Intimate History” runs with a series of personal stories, including one relating to his own disorder in childhood, says its internationally acclaimed author, Siddhartha Mukherjee on Tuesday.

The book runs “with a very personal series of stories. It starts with the story of my uncles and one cousin who have battled mental illness”, said Mukherjee at the launch here Tuesday of his book, published by Penguin Random House.

The book, he said, deals with “an idea about what it means to live with illness” and raises multiple questions like: “Why are we? Who are we? If we could change it, should we change it?”

Mukherjee also spoke about a disorder that he had dealt with in his childhood.

“The doctor asked why I wasn’t talking. Sometimes, a child who doesn’t talk is depressive, sometimes that child is just a child,” he explained.

The author then went into the heart of the matter, saying, “The definition of the gene is changing. Genes passes information. One trait can be specified by more than one gene. Multiple genes interact with each other to create a body part. A genome is a collection of every gene you process.”

“Most of our diseases are not a result of one gene but are caused by multiple genes. Schizophrenia is one such disease”, he said.

“If a gene is 100 per cent likely to cause a degenerative neurological disorder, will you implant (sic) that gene? If a gene is likely to cause a your child to live in a repressive structure, will you implant (sic) that gene,” he asked.

“Unless you know the vocabulary and you understand your choices, my suffering and your suffering are the same,” he added.

Veteran science journalist K.S. Jayaraman, while reviewing the book for IANS, wrote: “No doubt the science of biochemistry and cellular biology gets increasingly complex as you turn the pages but Mukherjee, adept with metaphors and writing in a journalistic style, can explain difficult genetic concepts with great clarity and simplicity.”

Mukherjee’s previous work, “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer”, won a Pulitzer in 2010.

–IANS

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