Ricki Lewis, a geneticist and journalist, offers an absorbing narrative of the history of and recent advances in gene therapy. She’s written textbooks on the topic, as well as hundreds of articles, and is a guest blogger for Scientific American. The combination of science clearly presented and the personal stories that humanize this cutting edge topic promise to engage teen readers.
The author’s website and blog includes a reader’s guide and an instructor’s guide to inspire discussion. Lewis blogs frequently on the site, sharing updates on the young patients she introduces in her book and illuminating the latest developments in her field.
Adult/High School–The history of gene therapy was littered with false steps and shattered hopes that threatened to keep this promising medical technology from becoming “the forever fix” for some of our most vexing genetic medical conditions–until the success in treating the hereditary eye disorder in Corey Haas. In 2008 the eight-year-old was the recipient of gene therapy in one eye that cured him of the disorder, enabled him to see, and obviated the need for additional treatment. It was a much needed success after a series of setbacks. The author explains in detail the science behind gene therapy, some of the problems that needed to be overcome, the heartbreaking failures, and where this medical cutting edge technology is headed. She also talks about the hard work of parents in raising funds and advocating for their children as well as some of the talented doctors and researchers who have worked on gene therapy for many years. Students today already learn about work leading up to it, such as DNA sequencing and genetic testing, which is necessary in identifying specific genes implicated in genetic diseases. This technology was the stuff of science fiction not too many years ago. This carefully researched and readable book will be interesting to teens who hear about these issues in the news or in their biology classes, and especially for those who may want to pursue a career in this field.–Vicki Emery, Lake Braddock Secondary School, Fairfax County, VA