Help me get up-to-date in genetics and immunology.
December 14, 2013 4:32 PM   Subscribe

Please recommend some up-to-date textbooks in genetics and immunology.

I recently attended a large scientific conference and discovered that, in the 20 years since I last looked into these topics, all the interesting questions I learned about had been answered and the state of the art is now using methods I've never heard of to attack questions I didn't understand. I'd like some textbook recommendations - last time I did this people still used textbooks, I assume they still do? - to get back up to speed. My purpose is mainly that I still find this stuff super interesting and exciting even though I'm not doing it any more and I want to feed that interest.

My background: Ivy honors undergrad degree in biochem ( I made a cDNA library and pulled a 6kb transcript of a growth factor receptor gene out of it, then used immunohistochemistry to show where it was expressed during zebrafish development ). The textbooks I used were written between 1988 and 1995; I recall Lewin's Genes IV, which I liked, and Abbas' Immunology (the '91 edition, I think?) which I didn't.

Since then, I obtained an MD and a masters in biostats/epidemiology, then left research and have gotten pretty far away from science.

Where I left off: RNA structure included rRNA and tRNA. The human genome, not yet sequenced, had 100,000 genes but 90% of it was 'junk DNA'. (I know.) Histones were not known to serve regulatory roles; 'CpG' islands and methylation were an interesting curiosity; promoters and other regulatory elements were well characterized in phage lambda and E.coli and work was progressing in yeast. Sanger sequencing had just been updated by Kary Mullis and Taq. Huntingtin had just been cloned. In other words, 1994.

CD4 and CD8 cells were known to coordinate two different parts of the adaptive immune system, but I am pretty sure nearly everything else I learned in immunology was not just antique, but wrong. If Abbas is still the standard - I see there's a 2011 edition - I'd like an alternate recommendation; I didn't like the style of presentation.

I don't mind reading a graduate-level textbook of a few thousand pages - I've recently come into some unexpected free time - and money is no object either. I want to understand methods as well as theories.

I am not interested at all, not in any way, in popularizations for a lay audience; I want to equip myself to peruse the current literature, at least in a dilatory way.

Please don't recommend a book you've never opened. I would instead like to hear about a book you found educational and pleasant to read. I'm open to non-book recommendations too.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry to Science & Nature (2 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is there a reason you aren't starting with review articles? They're usually written simply enough that anyone with a general scientific background should be able to make sense of them (especially the big ones like Nature Reviews).

As a current grad student, I get zero percent of my information from textbooks - I usually start with wikipedia if I really have no idea what something is, then read some review articles, and then go to the relevant primary articles.
posted by randomnity at 9:16 AM on December 15, 2013

Janeway's Immunobiology (it's on the 8th edition now) is a great text. It's written at the graduate level, very clear, and basically the classic, standard text for all immunobiology students. You can also probably look at Nature Reviews online if there are more specifics you want to learn about.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 9:25 AM on January 17, 2014

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