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The progress of molecular genetics

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GREAT SCIENCE is characterised by discovery and by finding solutions to real problems. Unlike physics, where a prediction based in theory leads to a search for supporting evidence, progress in biology depends more on systematic experimentation and observation than on any grand hypothesis. This is because biological systems have sequentially and adaptively evolved via mutations in the designer code of our genes. Without an overarching theory, researchers are required to tease out the molecular details of how life works.

Crick and Watson’s seminal model for DNA structure has led to the new field of molecular genetics. Still in its infancy, the discipline has been moving from the research laboratories to applications that inform medical practice.

Those of us active in clinical practice, though familiar with the basic pathway from DNA to protein, are likely to have a limited understanding of molecular genetics, depending on our graduation vintage and our ability to keep up with the field. That is why it is worth spending a little time and money on award-winning science journalist Elizabeth Finkel’s new book.

It is intended for a lay audience; however, though still active in immunological research, I had many knowledge gaps filled by its easy style and personalised accounts.