“Visceral.”—Wall Street Journal “Illuminating.”—Publishers Weekly “Heroic.”—Science
The immune system holds the key to human health. In The Beautiful Cure, leading immunologist Daniel M. Davis describes how the scientific quest to understand how the immune system works—and how it is affected by stress, sleep, age, and our state of mind—is now unlocking a revolutionary new approach to medicine and well-being.
The body’s ability to fight disease and heal itself is one of the great mysteries and marvels of nature. But in recent years, painstaking research has resulted in major advances in our grasp of this breathtakingly beautiful inner world: a vast and intricate network of specialist cells, regulatory proteins, and dedicated genes that are continually protecting our bodies. Far more powerful than any medicine ever invented, the immune system plays a crucial role in our daily lives. We have found ways to harness these natural defenses to create breakthrough drugs and so-called immunotherapies that help us fight cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and many age-related diseases, and we are starting to understand whether activities such as mindfulness might play a role in enhancing our physical resilience.
Written by a researcher at the forefront of this adventure, The Beautiful Cure tells a dramatic story of scientific detective work and discovery, of puzzles solved and mysteries that linger, of lives sacrificed and saved. With expertise and eloquence, Davis introduces us to this revelatory new understanding of the human body and what it takes to be healthy.
Davis (The Compatibility Gene), a professor of immunology at Manchester University, provides health-conscious readers with a broad overview of his specialty. His book concentrates on two main tasks: sharing scientific facts about how the immune system works, and celebrating the heroes and rebels of immunology and their breakthroughs, from Edward Jenner's 1796 development of a smallpox vaccine to Charles Janeway's 1989 theory of how the immune response is triggered. At present, scientists are experimenting with ways of manipulating the immune system, in order to support beneficial and supplant dangerous behavior by cells that can prevent or cause disease. This is a relatively new form of fighting disease, and challenging for a layperson to understand, but Davis clearly explains how the immune and nervous systems carry on a "dialogue" and employ "a collection of mechanisms" to keep the body from attacking its own healthy cells. Davis leaves readers with a reminder that, for all the scientific innovations described here, the human immune system remains "far more powerful than any medicine we have devised," and that sleep, healthy eating, mindfulness, and other complementary practices all appear to help. A modern equivalent of Paul de Kruif's 1926 classic, Microbe Hunters, Davis's work is concise and illuminating.