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Pancreatic Growth and Regeneration

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    Pancreatic Growth and Regeneration. Edited by Sarvetnick N. (Pp 25; illustrated; US$98.00.) Karger Landes Systems, 1997. ISBN 3 8055 6618 2.

    I may get a reputation for this, but I’m going to do it anyway. I reviewed a book for Gut a few months ago, and grumbled vociferously about the title; specifically, I didn’t like the phrase “clinical pathology” in its title because I didn’t know what the authors would mean by “clinical pathology”. This time, the title is easily understood; it’s just that it’s deeply unhelpful.Pancreatic Growth and Regeneration is really about the growth and regeneration of the β-cell, and very little else. There’s precious little about any other endocrine cell, and the exocrine pancreas only appears when its interaction with the islets is discussed. The phrase “tissue engineering” appears on the cover, but that doesn’t seem to be a major clue to the book’s contents, either.

    This book consists of a series of very detailed reviews, concentrating on the cellular and molecular biology of the β-cell, and in particular, on the role of growth factors. If this is all you want to know about, then this book is fine: coverage is detailed and thorough, the text is densely and appropriately referenced, and most of it seems to be more up to date than most books at the time of publication. The book seems to be written by molecular biologists for molecular biologists, with most of the chapters providing a platform for the authors to place their own work in a slightly broader scientific context. There is very little concession to the interested amateur, though members of other disciplines may be rewarded if they persist. There is hardly any effort to put matters into an appropriate clinical context, and abbreviations come thick and fast; not all are explained.

    Doctors tend to know a little about many things, and basic scientists know an enormous amount about a few things. If we let it, this dichotomy can become an insuperable cultural divide, with each side holding the other in entirely inappropriate contempt. Straying across the chasm can be enormously productive and rewarding, but texts likePancreatic Growth and Regeneration are hardly attractive bait to tempt one to make the effort. It would probably not be much more tempting even if it were adorned with an appropriate title, such as Molecular and Cellular Biology of the Growth and Regeneration of the Pancreatic β-Cell. However, that would be much more accurate, and less likely to deceive the naive into expecting something quite different between its covers.

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