Harper's biochemistry 24th edition

Harper's biochemistry 24th edition

237 Book Reviews Harper's Biochemistry 24th Edition by R K M u r r a y , D K G r a n n e r , P A M a y e s and V W Rodwell. p p 868. A p p l e t o n ...

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Book Reviews Harper's Biochemistry 24th Edition by R K M u r r a y , D K G r a n n e r , P A M a y e s and V W Rodwell. p p 868. A p p l e t o n & L a n g e , Stamford, CT. 1996. £28.95 I S B N 0-8385-3612-3 Why should any student want to work from Harper rather than one of the glossy, richly illustrated present hardback texts of Biochemistry such as Stryer, Voet & Voet, Matthews & van Holde, etc? Harper certainly appeals to medical students and the book has been extremely successful and has been translated into a number of languages, and as will be realised, few books go to 24 editions. Partly the answer lies in its brevity and relatively condensed approach. Also, of course, it is aimed at medics in the sense that it has sections on hormones, vitamins, nutrition, red and white ceils, xenobiotics, etc, that would be found in a 'traditional' text of a number of years ago, but nothing on photosynthesis and nitrogen fixation. This is not a criticism: it merely states that these books have a different 'flavour' than those mentioned in the first sentence of this review. It has to be admitted that (in the UK at least) the price of Harper is similar to, or indeed more than, that of these other books. Nevertheless, it will surely continue to appeal to this audience whose needs it fulfils, and it is in this spirit that we welcome edition number 24. The Preface tells us that much has been updated and revised, some new sections added, and a second colour also added to the diagrams, which are, as always, clear and simple (and capable of being memorised and reproduced in an exam?). Especially worth mentioning are revision of D N A sections including repair, new sections on NO, chaperones, H U G O , gene therapy and antisense therapy and many more. It is stated that there is now information about ribozymes; there is, but only a paragraph or two. I am not really sure whether it is worth boasting about there being new parts about Wilson's and Menke's diseases, which are pretty rare. Similarly in the new Chapter 65 (Case Studies), some of the conditions mentioned are very rare (eg Xeroderma pigmentosum and SCID) and some are not (cystic fibrosis, myocardial infarction). The 65 chapters are divided amongst six sections entitled: Structures and Functions of Proteins and Enzymes; Bioenergetics and the Metabolism of Carbohydrates and Lipids; Metabolism of Proteins and Amino Acids; Structure, Function and Replication of Informational Macromolecules and finally, Special Topics (which includes Nutrition, the ECM, the Genetic Basis of Disease, etc). In addition there are three introductory chapters, one about water and pH, and this illustrates the general tendency of dealing with difficult/dry topics first, before launching into the more recent/exciting things. (Medics know that they have to understand pH and acid-base balance and therefore appreciate this approach). Compared with the 'glossy' books mentioned above there are very few computer-produced pictures of proteins. Surprisingly, too, there are very few electronmicrographs. Some of the early sections seemed a bit ancient or unrealistic (about what is actually done these days). Thus on p 2 we are shown amino acid chromatography on paper and in oxidative phosphorylation it is not clearly stated that the majority of people now believe that the Mitchell 'hypothesis' is a fair description of what happens. I didn't really like the simplified diagram of ox-phos on p 129. It is eminently 'understandable' because of its simplicity: however, the F~ ATPases are shown as 'inside' the inner mitochondrial membrane (which they are). This might confuse students familiar with a view of them protruding from the mitochondrial cristae, into the matrix space. It is not really obvious what 'outside' means here.


The formulae and equations on the whole are very well done and are clear. The only exception is that for vitamin Blz on p608. Also the immunoglobulins are a bit simple (eg p 717) and no genuflection is made in respect of immunoglobulin folds and hypervariable regions to show how antibody actually combines with antigen. The section on retinol and retinoic acid (p 615) is confusing, if not actually wrong. For example, it is retinoic acid not retinol that acts like a steroid hormone and binds to nuclear proteins. The authors are to be congratulated on being up to date on Craig Venter and the Haemophilusinfluenzaegenome, but from the point of view of the largely medic audience, ! would have thought that more on the cell cycle and apoptosis would have been more appropriate. Medics will certainly appreciate Chapter 63 on the Biochemical and Genetic Basis of Disease which is very well constructed. What more can I say. A very well constructed successor to Edition 23 which will be welcomed by its traditional readership. E J Wood

Clinical Biochemistry for Medical Students by M F Laker. pp 357. W B Saunders, L o n d o n . 1996. $29 I S B N 0-7020-1690-X Clinical biochemistry is that medical knowledge that includes a lot of human biochemistry and is concerned with the investigation and management of biochemical disorders that produce or are associated with disease. It provides an overarching and integrating structure to the understanding of structural, metabolic, functional and genetic biochemistry and its relationships to nutrition, and to body systems and topics usually considered the domain of physiology and pathology. These include water, electrolyte and H + metabolism; kidney; hepato-biliary and gastro-intestinal tracts; hemopoietic, musculo-skeletal, endocrine and nervous systems; neoplasia. In practice clinical biochemistry is concerned with the use of biochemical knowledge to the analysis of clinical problems with a view to diagnosis making and patient management. It thus has a very important and integrative role in the medical curriculum. The author (a specialist in clinical biochemistry and molecular medicine at the Medical School, University of Newcastle, UK) clearly has undergraduate students in mind in his approach and presentation, although this book should also be of use for those preparing for post-graduate examinations in medicine and other specialities, and of course, in clinical biochemistry. He has avoided extensive or comprehensive coverage and focuses on major disorders clearly and succinctly. He presumes prior knowledge of basic biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology and some clinical experience, having in mind students in traditionallystructured medical curricula in many of which this subject is met in the clinical phase of studies. Each chapter opens with a summary of section headings and then proceeds to a brief outline of basic biochemistry, anatomy and physiology relevant to the chapter title. Major emphasis, as expected, is on the pathophysiology of important biochemical disorders. Some laboratory tests are outlined and frequently the principles of management of the disorders presented are sketched out. Students should appreciate the small boxes scattered throughout the text that highlight and summarise key points. A brief list of publications for 'Further Reading' that frequently includes works that appeared in 1994 and occasionally in 1995, and 1 to 4 case histories (67 in all) that require understanding and application of the preceding text, conclude each chapter. Brief comments on each of these histories are included at book end. A list of reference values relevant to the case histories is included and there is a useful index. Of the 24 chapters into which the subject matter is organised, the two