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The Angel and the Assassin: The Tiny Brain Cell That Changed the Course of Medicine

The Angel and the Assassin: The Tiny Brain Cell That Changed the Course of Medicine

Author Donna Jackson Nakazawa
Publisher Ballantine Books
Publication Date January 19, 2021
Section Medicine / New Titles - Paperback
Type New
Format Paperback
ISBN 9781524799199

The riveting story of microglia—the “white blood cell of the brain”—from the scientists who discovered its dual capabilities to harm and heal, to the cutting-edge treatments emerging for a variety of brain diseases, including depression and Alzheimer’s.

Until recently, microglia were thought to be the boring housekeepers of the brain, helpfully pruning away dead cells. But science now understands them to have a terrifying Jekyll and Hyde control over brain health. When triggered, they morph into destroyers, causing a wide range of issues. Under the right circumstances, however, microglia are indeed angelic healers, making repairs in ways that reduce symptoms and, now that we understand their true role, could one day prevent disease.

A fascinating behind-the-scenes account of the science that identified microglia as our neurological immune system, The Angel and the Assassin also explores the promising medical implications of this game-changing discovery. Award-winning journalist Jackson Nakazawa (who herself has health issues explained by microglial behavior) follows three patients as they seek to reduce their psychiatric and cognitive issues through new treatments. Giving new meaning to the mind-body connection, these discoveries could rewrite psychiatry and medical texts as we know them. The Angel and the Assassin stands to change everything we thought we knew about how to heal our bodies and our brains.

  Donna Jackson Nakazawa is the author of three previous books exploring the intersection of neuroscience, immunology, and emotion: Childhood Disrupted, which was a finalist for the 2016 Books for a Better Life award, The Last Best Cure, and The Autoimmune Epidemic. For her written contributions to the field of immunity, she has received the AESKU award and the National Health Information Award, which recognizes the nation’s best magazine articles on health. Jackson Nakazawa’s work has appeared in Wired, Stat, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Health Affairs, Aeon, Parenting, AARP Magazine, and Glamour and has been featured on the cover of Parade as well as in Time. She has appeared on Today, NPR, NBC News, and ABC News, and has been the recipient of writing-in-residence fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Yaddo, and the MacDowell Colony. She lives with her family in Maryland.

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