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Neural transplantation: an introduction

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    Neural transplantation: an introduction. By william j freed. (Pp 561, £39.95). Published by MIT Press, London, 2000. ISBN 0 262 06208 9.

    This book by Bill Freed summarises the field of neural transplantation and as might be expected from this author the approach is somewhat different. Bill Freed was one of the original scientists involved with the early pioneering work on neural transplants especially in the experimental exploration of adrenal medullary transplants in Parkinson's disease. He is not to be confused with the controversial neurosurgeon Curt Freed, the principal investigator of the recent double blinded embryonic nigral grafts trial in Parkinson's disease. This book is written by one who saw the field develop out of its experimental origins into the clinical domain, and as such should be capable of providing the reader with a balanced rationale to neural transplantation. Unfortunately, it fails to do this because it often rambles off into quasiphilosophical topics, which is a shame as it undermines much that could be gleaned from this tome.

    The book begins with a preface that sets the tone of the rest of the book, concluding with a rather odd quotation fromThe jigsaw man by Larry Niven. The book then leads through a series of introductory chapters which includes a list of conditions that may be suitable for transplantation. This list rather extraordinarily contains schizophrenia but other more sensible candidates such as motor neuron disease or cerebellar degenerations do not make an appearance at all. Immersed in this early section of the book is chapter 7 which discusses neural transplants in terms of changes in personality. Although this is of interest it is clearly out of place in an introductory book such as this, not least because it confuses in the readers mind the notion of selective grafts for neurodegenerative conditions with the ludicrous head transplants that some have advocated. Thus the book has the potential to lead the uninitiated to think that the ultimate goal of neural transplantation is brain replacement rather than brain repair. The book thereafter returns to a more logical and better balanced approach but sadly detours at the end into dangerous waters once again with a misjudged final concluding chapter.

    In summary, the book contains much of interest but presents it in a fashion that makes it difficult to recommend. So for those wanting an introduction to the subject of neural grafting this is not the book to read, because of its eclectic approach. To those familiar with the field, it represents an interesting diversion, but is deeply irritating in parts and creates a sense of confusion as to where Bill Freed thinks the field is going—a situation at variance with those actively involved in the field.