Review: Globe & Mail

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How a Misfolded Protein Baffled Scientists and Changed the Way We Look at the Brain

HarperCollins Publishers Ltd | 260 pages| Hardcover

Jay Ingram is one of Canada’s foremost expositors of science; the long-time host of CBC Radio’s Quirks & Quarks is adept at guiding the scientifically challenged through the most complex ideas. In Fatal Flaws, his subject is prions, a term meaningless to most, though a few may recall the link to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease to us layfolk). But there’s a lot more to the mysterious prions, and Ingram compellingly unravels the still-emerging science around them. Beginning with the first notion of their existence in a disease called kuru in 1950s New Guinea (with hints of cannibalism), he takes us from the grudging acceptance of this misfolded protein to its potential for treating catastrophic brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

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