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Is It in Your Genes? The Influence of Genes on Common Disorders and Diseases that Affect You and Your Family

Subject Area(s):  Human Biology and DiseaseGeneticsGeneral Interest Titles

By Philip R. Reilly, Interleukin Genetics

© 2004 • 304 pp., tables, further reading, index
Paperback •
ISBN  978-087969721-1

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It is now clear that our risk of developing almost any disease is influenced by the genes with which we are born. One of the most important dividends of the Human Genome Project will be a much greater understanding of the influence of genes on disease and disorders in children (from asthma to autism) and adults (including heart disease, virtually all cancers, and Alzheimer's disease). The nature of genetic risks in families is becoming clearer and this book is written to help people understand them. Philip Reilly, a physician–geneticist, who has given hundreds of lectures on this subject, takes a user–friendly approach. Drawing on the many questions he has been asked (for example, “My sister has multiple sclerosis. Am I at an increased risk?”), Reilly discusses over 90 common conditions, diseases, and disorders, arranged from conception to old age. In frank, non–technical terms, he makes clear what is known and not known about the genetic factors and, if your risk is elevated, what you might be able to do about it. This book is a uniquely valuable resource for anyone seeking more information about a family's disease heritage.

About the author: Philip R. Reilly earned his undergraduate degree at Cornell University, studied human genetics at the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, and graduated from Yale Medical School in 1981. He did his medical residency at Boston City Hospital. He earned board certification in internal medicine and clinical genetics. He has served on the Board of Directors of the American Society of Human Genetics, and he is a Founding Fellow of the American College of Medical Genetics. He twice served as President of the American Society of Law, Medicine, and Ethics. During the 1990s, Reilly was the Executive Director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center for Mental Retardation in Waltham, Massachusetts, a nonprofit that worked on understanding childhood and adult neurological disorders. Dr. Reilly has held faculty positions at Harvard Medical School and Brandeis University. Since 2009 he has worked as a venture partner at Third Rock Ventures in Boston where he focuses on helping to start companies to develop innovative therapies for orphan genetic diseases. Over the years he has published six books and many articles about the impact of advances in genetics. Reilly frequently works with patient groups who are concerned with rare genetic disorders.


A Note about Technical Terminology
Is It in Your Genes Companion Web Site
Introduction: Genetic Medicine
Genes and Mutations
Part 1: Pregnancy
Part 2: Infancy
Part 3: Childhood
Part 4: Adulthood
For Further Information


review:  “This book could do a great deal to enhance genetic literacy. It deserves to be read widely by students of human genetics at all levels, by primary care providers and practitioners in all specialties, by genetic counselors, and by anyone who has wondered whether they or their children are at risk for a disease affecting a family member.”
      —Journal of Clinical Investigation

review:  “For clinicians, the impact of genetics on clinical practice outside the specialist area of the rare single gene disorders (or the Mendelian subsets of some of the common ones) has so far been small, but this will soon start to change and they will have to master the complexities of genetic and environmental interactions. Whilst Reilly's book is no substitute for proper professional development programmes, its clarity and its easy and accessible style will help them meet this challenge and provide sensible advice.”
      —Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine

review:  “I very much enjoyed reading this book. It gives an up to date summary of the knowledge regarding genetic risk for common disease and disorders, is written very clearly and contains a large amount of information that is easy to find. To my knowledge, the information provided is factually correct and an excellent condensation of the primary literature (33 pages of primary literature and further information are provided at the back of the book). It tries to avoid jargon and by–and–large achieves this....In conclusion, this is a very readable book that I will recommend to friends and colleagues who are interested in the area of genetics, medicine and public health.”
      —Genetical Research

review:  “The title of this book is really at the heart of so much public interest in current biomedical research. Its intent is to make much of this current research into the genetics of common disease comprehensible to those people most affected by potential genetic risk factors—patients and their families. The subheadings for each of the sections are derived from the private questions that Dr. Reilly gets after his public lectures about conditions specific to their families, and can be generically stated as ‘Is it in my genes?’. In this sense, the book provides an antidote to one of the greatest failings of medical education—the general lack of knowledge among practicing physicians about the role of genetics in a variety of conditions. And it is a very readable and concise antidote that will help the general population and clinicians get a better handle on what is known and how to use this information...

All of the sections are beautifully written, making even the most complex answers accessible to the general reader, the clinician and geneticist who want a quick introduction to a new disease. References are given that can lead the reader to more technical information.”

review:  “Reilly's book provides an entrée for information into many common disorders that have a genetic component; it is user–friendly and accurate, and the descriptions of the disorders are specifically targeted at lay readers. Although books such as these often seem to be dated almost as soon as they are published, it is their central themes that must persevere if they are to succeed. In this, Reilly has had the success that comes from careful planning. For those disorders for which I have the most familiarity, I found their discussions to be almost universally accurate and the advice provided appropriate and likely to be useful for years to come. Another strength of the book is its comprehensiveness in covering a wide range of adult and pediatric disorders.”
      —The Quarterly Review of Biology