Book review: S.M. Kingsman & A.J. Kingsman, Genetic Engineering: An Introduction to Gene Analysis and Exploitation in Eukaryotes. Blackwell Scientific, 1988.

Author: Darryl R. J. Macer
This is a comprehensive volume on the science of genetic engineering in eukaroytes. It is based on a third year undergraduate biochemistry course. It is one of the better textbooks available in this field, but like all of them, will need to be frequently updated in this rapidly advancing field. For example, it is written before the widespread introduction of the DNA Polymerase Chain reaction.

Unlike many recent texts it does not concentrate on the cloning of genes, but rather on what can be done once a gene is isolated. It covers a broad range of techniques, giving some of the biological background behind them, and examples of their use. The book is written at a level suitable for University students, and many parts would be incomprehensable to people without A-level biology. It is useful to scientists who are thinking of using the tools of genetic engineering to solve a variety of biological problems. The examples are also useful to students of biochemistry or biology as a reference material. It contains more references than most texts.

After a general introduction to eukaryote genes, DNA and genome organisation, there is an introduction to gene transfer. I found the first introductory chapter the most difficult to read. Chapters 3-6 concentrate on different gene transfer systems in microbial eukaryotes, animal cells, whole animals and plants. The basic model organism systems used for gene study and transfer, are discussed.

The second half of the book, chapters 7-12, concentrate on the use and exploitation of gene transfer technology. The applications of gene transfer experiments to gene identification, isolation, investigation of gene expression, chromosomal structure, and protein structure and function, cover many of the basics of molecular biology. The technology is being applied to experiments in every branch of biology, and from this array, many examples are presented.

The eleventh chapter gives examples of how genetic technology can aid our understanding of human disease, principally focusing on oncogenes and cancer, making animal models of human disease using genetic engineering, and AIDS. The twelfth chapter is an introduction to biotechnology using genetic engineering, and is somewhat disappointing in its lack of detail compared to that given in the rest of the book. The applications of gene transfer technology to production of useful substances, and agricultural production, warrant several chapters of a book of such detail. However, such information can be found in other recent books which specifically deal with these aspects, and one could argue that this book fills more of the gap between books that deal specifically with biotechnology, and those which concentrate on gene cloning techniques.

To its merit the book gives many examples from the broad spectrum of gene transfer, which makes it useful as a background to the subject for students and scientists. It will provide the reader with new ideas to explore in their research, pointing to different lines of experimental work, for which they can obtain more recent journal reviews on, if they require such.

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