There’s no better pleasure in life than to satisfy our own cravings. Whether it’s a food craving or something else, there’s no peace for the soul, at least mine, till that need is quenched. And for those of us who find themselves longing for (more) stem cells, Paul Knoepfler’s recently-released book, Stem Cells: An Insider’s Guide is a tasty, delicious “food for thought” to indulge upon.
As he states in his introductory note, the book is a scaled-up version of his acclaimed blog. The book serves as both a manual that one can go through looking for instructions on how to use and what to do with stem cells, and as an example and inspiration for those who would like to establish themselves as stem cell advocates within their own community.
Knoepfler captures the quintessence of stem cells in 14 chapters, each emanating its own distinct aroma and flavour. The book has appeal for almost every taste. The fine-taste palate will definitely appreciate the sharp and meticulously referenced guide to the biology of stem cells described in the first two chapters, where real pictures of stem cells taken by either the author himself or members of his lab are shown. I thought the choice to include figures as they would appear in a scientific publication – complete with the words “DAPI” and “nuclei” – was quite a brave move on his part, and it effectively showcases the importance of getting the general audience familiar with scientific words as long as they are explained and made accessible.
If you’re looking for something spicy and want to dig deeper into saucy topics then delve into the middle of the book, where chapters 7 and 8 carefully lay out some of the most controversial aspects of stem cells use and commercialization. These include the compassionate use of stem cells treatments, which was recently challenged or the prospect of making a profit out of stem cells treatments in an ethical manner. Particularly interesting is the idea of a fair-trade stem cells business where on one side there are the patients’ rights and enrollments in clinical trials to be considered (paying to be a human guinea pig is a quite captivating subchapter) and on the other side, not necessarily in an antagonistic position in my opinion, is the need to go forward with new treatments.
If you’re more into a light snack, chapter 13, “Getting your stem cells geek on”, is the perfect After Eight to finish your day. The chapter is refreshing, sprinkled all over with pop culture references (who knew stem cells can be an aphrodisiac?), fun to read, but at the same time provocative and inspiring.
For those of us who are always seeking for new experiences, whether it’s trying a different spice on our morning coffee or a risky experiment nobody dared to perform before, this is the book to read or to give to those who want to understand more about stem cells.
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