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What biology etc. book(s) should I read to understand ME research & theories?

Discussion in 'Information and Resources' started by Sasha, Jul 23, 2011.

  1. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    I have zero knowledge of biology and medicine and read most of the science & treatment stuff on the web about ME with only the shallowest of understanding. I'd like to educate myself by reading one or more introductory textbooks in the relevant area. I'm well up on the scientific method, maths & stats, and can remember enough physics & chemistry to get by.

    I need some help to even know the name of the biology/medical disciplines I need to be looking at - cell biology? Human biology? Physiology? Immunology? And if anyone can recommend specific basic books that would be a bonus.

    The sort of stuff I'd like to undertand includes:

    • the methylation stuff that rich talks about
    • the biology involved in the b12 stuff that Freddd talks about
    • the Krebs cycle (heard of it, dunno what it is)
    • viruses
    • the immune system
    • general stuff related to POTS/NMH e.g. on the autonomic nervous system, cardiovascular system
    • anything else you think I need to know to understand what people are on about!

    I don't want a degree in this stuff but I would like to go from zero (and I mean zero) biological knowledge to enough to know what people are talking about.

    I will be very grateful for any help! :Retro smile:
     
  2. determined

    determined Senior Member

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    Yes, understanding this illness is quite the biological undertaking.

    I would start with cellular respiration, which is the breakdown of glucose to produce ATP (includes glycolysis, pyruvate oxidation, Krebs cycle and oxidative phosphorylation.

    There are many free resources on the web, but I like Kimball:

    http://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/C/CellularRespiration.html

    Kimball won't have all the biochemistry/immunology you need to understand everything, but it will have some basics.
     
  3. richvank

    richvank Senior Member

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    Hi, Sasha.

    This is a worthy goal! The problem is to get there from here in the most efficient way one can. I have struggled with that over the past 15 years, as I had no background in the biological sciences when I started trying to figure out ME (then called CFS).

    The most helpful subject I've found in trying to understand ME is biochemistry. The first three topics you listed fall into this subject area. The difficulty is that the topics in biochemistry that seem to be most important are not covered in much detail in biochemistry textbooks, though you need a basic grounding in biochemistry to understand them. I have several biochemistry texts. Essentials of Medical Biochemistry by Bhagavan (2011) is probably a pretty good book. I have Bhagavan's earlier Medical Biochemistry, fourth edition, copyright 2002, and it has a lot of things that aren't covered in other texts, so I'm guessing the new one is pretty good. A good reference text in biochemistry is the one by Devlin. I have the sixth edition, but the seventh is available.

    A person who explains methylation very well is Jill James, who speaks at the DAN! conferences. One of her recent talks can be found here:

    http://legacy.autism.com/danwebcast/categories_temp.asp

    It's the one entitled "Mothers, Methylation and Mitochondria." I could only pull up the "listen" version, but if one waits long enough, the video version will probably come up. She's good.

    A recent review paper on the metabolism of B12 is the one by Quadros:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2809139/pdf/nihms152427.pdf

    "Determined" posted a good source giving a basic explanation of the Krebs cycle.

    The next two fall into virology and immunology. A nice readable little introductory book in immunology is the one by Abbas, called Basic Immunology. It has some discussion of the response of the immune system to viruses. The newest edition of Janeway's Immunobiology is just coming out now, and I haven't seen it yet. I have the earlier edition. It's a pretty comprehensive immunology text. Immunology has been developing rapidly, so it's best to get a new book.

    POTS and body systems fall into physiology. A good book from which to learn about physiology is the Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology, which is now in its 12th edition.

    Knowledge of basic anatomy is helpful, but an understanding of biochemistry, immunology and physiology are more important in ME.

    Genomics and its interaction with biochemistry is becoming more important in understanding what's going on in ME, in my opinion. I don't have a good reference to suggest for this.

    I hope this is helpful.

    Rich
     
  4. heapsreal

    heapsreal iherb 10% discount code OPA989,

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    Use biology books that most doctors dont use.
    Read oslers web and google stuff as you go and can do that for stuff on here as you read it too.

    cheers!!!
     
    ggingues likes this.
  5. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    Thanks for all these recommendations!

    Hi determined - I'm afraid even the Kimball site was beyond me - it assumes a lot of knowledge even in the first para of that page on cellular respiration (e.g. what ATP is, what a eukaroyte is, what cytosis is, what an organelle is, cytosol, etc. etc.) - I need something that starts from zero and works up. But there may well be a lot of people reading this thread who have enough of that knowledge to get a lot out of that site! We are all at different levels.

    Hi rich - that's hugely useful to know that it's biochemistry I should be looking at for starters. I had a look on Amazon at both the books that you suggested and at some others and, perhaps not surprisingly in my case, the one that stands out for me is Biochemistry for Dummies! Helpfully, on Amazon it has that facility of being able to look at the table of contents for that particular one and I can see that it's covering lots of stuff that I want to know, including a big section on vitamins, particularly the b vitamins.

    I also ordered Planet of Viruses (popular science therefore, I'm really hoping, pitched at the beginner - not a textbook but I think it will help me get started); and The Machinery of Life, which is about cells (again, pop science but should be a relatively painless introduction to some of the concepts).

    Hi heapsreal - yes, I think that's a good idea to keep googling if I get stuck! I don't know what we all did before the internet.

    Thanks again, everybody! :thumbsup:
     
  6. madietodd

    madietodd Senior Member

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    Sasha - Please give updates about how easy and useful these books are. Because I don't understand any of this either.
     
  7. determined

    determined Senior Member

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    I can't believe I forgot this. There are many online biology courses now. Both Berkeley and MIT have opencourseware and have complete videos of their intro to biology classes.

    http://webcast.berkeley.edu/playlist#c,d,Biology,AEA78A7381413A47

    I noticed that Berkeley also has an anatomy course. I have yet to see a physiology course. There are also biochemistry courses. This is an incredible time commitment, mind you. But I think it would pay off. I've watched both the Berkeley and MIT intro to bio courses and they were excellent. MIT also has graduate level courses available, but very few of them are videocast. I do believe that much of the material we need to understand is advanced undergraduate/graduate level.

    I agree with Rich that an understanding of genomics will also be important. I think it's MIT that has a genomics audio course available. I listened to a few lectures and learned a lot from it.
     
  8. determined

    determined Senior Member

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  9. determined

    determined Senior Member

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  10. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

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    Hi Sasha, by all means use as many online sources as possible, particularly if you can download or stream lectures.

    The usual advice I give people who are starting out is to start with a general biology text, such as a high school or undergrad biology book. I used to use Web of Life.

    The next step is not to pick up up most biochem texts. They presume too much knowledge. Instead, look for a good nursing text, that contains overviews of anatomy, physiology and general biochemistry or pharmacology. These texts typically do not presume a high level of prior knowledge.

    Next you might consider a small biochem text that has an overview. These can give you the big picture. Reading widely on the net is good at this point, as you know the basics.

    Then you are ready for a biochemistry text, which should cover the basics of things like immunology, genetics and pharmacology. Do read up on cellular metabolism and free radicals. At that point you are ready for general immunology texts.

    I do not recommend anatomy texts. Physiology texts are better, anatomy texts are good mainly as reference, and the internet can do that for free. Physiology texts cover how the body works, how all the pieces fit together. Biochemistry is the nuts and bolts, but physiology is about the big picture.

    After that read what interests you, including scientific papers. If you have problems, do reread sections of earlier texts or the online sources you have used previously.

    This is a long road, but it will help you take control of your treatment, and understand when medical professionals are giving bad advice. Don't spend too much money on it though, use the net where you can and also buy second hand old college texts, or borrow some if you know anybody who has studied these things at college.

    You are going to forget a lot of it. Don't worry, it slowly sinks in. One trick I used to use was read up on one place, then read a different coverage somewhere else, repeat until I get it. The internet is good for this I think, the search engine is your friend. The other thing that happens is that as you absorb more you may forget details, but in moving on to more complicated material you may find it much easier to understand even though you have forgotten much of the basics. The knowledge is up there, you are just having trouble recalling it on demand (if you are like me).

    Bye
    Alex

    ps In looking at an immunology text, you might like to look at one written for medical students first. Its more introductory, as most med students don't ever get into advanced immunology.
     
  11. Tulip

    Tulip Guest

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    I was actually wondering about biology for dummies as a starter point? - that sounds awful but these books are actually really good!. I know of heaps of mature age nursing students that use them to get their heads around biology after a long break from school.
     
  12. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    Hi madie - yes, I certainly will!

    I should have mentioned that the Biochemistry for Dummies book has a new edition coming out in August, which I have ordered from my library - I think that some of the science moves fairly quickly so I think it's good to be up to date.
     
  13. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    Thanks, determined - I prefer books so that I can learn at my own rate but lots of people will probably like to watch lectures.

    I watched a little bit of the intro to the Berkeley video and felt as though I were in a recurring dream that I actually have sometimes in which I turn up to my final year degree exam, not having attended the course all year and knowing absolutely nothing! In the UK, it wouldn't be possible to start a biology course at a university without having studied the subject intensively for the equivalent of about 6 months solid and passed exams in it already. The idea of turning up on the first day of a university course without a certificate in it already would seem like turning up naked! Brrr! :Retro smile:
     
  14. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    Thanks, Alex - that's very helpful indeed. I think that's good advice to read overlapping coverage to help consolidate and put it all together. If I find the Biochemistry for Dummies isn't really for dummies I'll go back a level and get a general biology text (might be a good idea anyway - I probably can't have too much background!).

    I'm very fortunate in having access to an excellent public library system where I can order books online across the whole county and have them delivered to my local library for pennies. I intend to make full use of it!
     
  15. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    Hi Tulip - lots of people seem to be suggesting books for nurses, which is a good idea - I don't know if they need to have biology qualifications in order to start their courses but they need to know medically relevant stuff quickly.
     
  16. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    First update!

    I received David Goodsell's The Machinery of Life yesterday and am 34 pages in (out of 160).

    Wow! What a book! The stuff in it is just AMAZING! Soooo interesting!

    I ordered it between posting my question about what books to get and anybody replying, because the Amazon review was so good, and when it arrived and said it was about molecular biology, I thought, "oops", but I'm really pleased I bought it.

    It's about how cells work but it starts from how the molecules in cells are built up, why there are different types, what properties they have because of how various atoms behave in water and with each other, and you find yourself very rapidly with an understanding of some astonishing stuff. The illustrations are amazing - they have been specially developed by the author and are a huge help to understanding the content.

    I've tried before to read an introductory biology textbook and found it very offputting, consisting as it did of diagrams to memorise without any clear explanation of why things were how they were. This is very different - by starting at the atomic level you can't get more basic and I think this book will give me a good context and framework for the other introductory stuff I'll be reading. It's fundamental as well as basic (if you see what I mean).

    It is taking some concentration to read but it is really enjoyable. Big thumbs-up for this one!
     
  17. WillowJ

    WillowJ Senior Member

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  18. Boule de feu

    Boule de feu Senior Member

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    Once you have learned all of this wonderful (sometimes boring!) stuff, don't forget the very old (1992) but still good:
    The Clinical and Scientific Basis of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
    by Dr. Byron Hyde.

    http://www.nightingale.ca/index.php?target=bookoffer

    "Eighty of the world's leading M.E. / CFS authorities have contributed their knowledge to produce a 725-page encyclopedia on the disease process that may be one of the biggest single causes of chronic illness in the world today. Known in the United States as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and in Great Britain both as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome, M.E./CFS has provoked a chronic disabling illness in an estimated 1,000,000 persons in North America and Europe."

    Your library should have a copy...
     
  19. xks201

    xks201 Senior Member

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    It is more genetics than anything. You can learn everything and look everywhere but it doesn't mean anything unless you see where your mutation is at. Then you might have an idea of where to look. Have fun memorizing every step of the Krebs cycle. lol (I hated it)
     
  20. Aileen

    Aileen Senior Member

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