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Methods in Bone Biology. Edited by T R Arnett, B Henderson. (Pp 314; £89). London: Thomson Science and Professional, 1998. ISBN 412-757702.
Diseases of bone are among the most common in the world. Rarely do they kill but they cause serious morbidity. As in all diseases, understanding the biology of tissues and changes that occur in diseased states is fundamental to patient management. For some time there has been a need for a book that summarises a “state of the art” understanding of bone biology. This book is designed to fill this niche.
The book follows the usual structure of such works, in that it is multi-authored and edited in a single style, by, in this case, two highly respected biologists. Each of the chapters is written by an authority in the various fields covered. Each chapter is comprehensive and well presented as would be expected of any worthwhile book of its type. Some of the chapters are superb, although none, again as would be expected in this rapidly developing field, are completely up to date (the book was obviously some time in publishing as each chapter contains a note saying publication was 1997, whereas the book was not published until 1998). Nevertheless, most chapters would form an ideal basis for obtaining an understanding of the subject and would act as the perfect “jumping off” point for any literature review.
One of the dangers in having a multi-authored book, is that some of the chapter authors might give their own perspective on the subject or techniques. This book is no exception and the point is illustrated particularly well in the chapter entitled “Application of immunocytochemistry and in situ hybridisation to cryostat sections of undecalcified bone”. As far as it goes, and within the remit of the chapter title, this is a well founded topic. However, it gives a bias that might not be appreciated by someone coming fresh to the subject, implying that this particularly difficult technique it describes is the main method by which in situ methodologies are applied to bone tissues. (It is much more common for immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridisation to be applied to decalcified or plastic embedded undecalcified sections of bone.) Sectioning bone undecalcified on the cryostat is particularly difficult and if the aim of the book was to be a comprehensive introduction to the study of bone biology, the difficulty of this technique may dissuade people from working in this area.
There are also some omissions. There is, for instance, nothing on RNA and DNA extraction techniques for bone despite recent advances in this field. Neither is there anything on biology of bone matrix. Finally, the choice of illustrations for the chapter on imaging techniques for bone are idiosyncratic. While excellent as far as they go, they are restricted to microfocal radiography and the use of DXA in animals.
By comparison with the overall quality of the contents of the book, in general these are relatively minor criticisms. The book is an ideal basis for those interested in or entering into serious study of osteoblast and osteoclast biology, mechanical loading of bone, bone histomorphometry, bone biochemistry, and animal models for examining bone metabolism. It will be particularly valuable to postgraduate students working in this field and it is a well presented and much needed contribution to the general area of bone biology.
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