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Download The Family That Couldn't Sleep: A Medical Mystery Audiobook (Unabridged)

Extended Audio Sample The Family That Couldnt Sleep: A Medical Mystery (Unabridged) Audiobook, by D.T. Max
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,336 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: D.T. Max Narrator: Grover Gardner Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2006 ISBN:
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For 200 years, a noble Venetian family has suffered from an inherited disease that strikes their members in middle age, stealing their sleep, eating holes in their brains, and ending their lives in a matter of months. In Papua New Guinea, a primitive tribe is nearly obliterated by a sickness whose chief symptom is uncontrollable laughter. Across Europe, millions of sheep rub their fleeces raw before collapsing. In England, cows attack their owners in the milking parlors, while in the American West, thousands of deer starve to death in fields full of grass.

What these strange conditions, including fatal familial insomnia, kuru, scrapie, and mad cow disease, share is their cause: prions. Prions are ordinary proteins that sometimes go wrong, resulting in neurological illnesses that are always fatal. Even more mysterious and frightening, prions are almost impossible to destroy because they are not alive and have no DNA. And the diseases they bring are now spreading around the world.

In The Family That Couldn't Sleep, essayist and journalist D. T. Max tells the spellbinding story of the prion's hidden past and deadly future. Through exclusive interviews and original archival research, Max explains this story's connection to human greed and ambition, from the Prussian chemist Justus von Liebig, who made cattle meatier by feeding them the flesh of other cows, to New Guinean natives whose custom of eating the brains of the dead nearly wiped them out.

The biologists who have investigated these afflictions are just as extraordinary. They include Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, a self-described pedagogic pedophiliac pediatrician who cracked kuru and won the Nobel Prize, and another Nobel winner, Stanley Prusiner, a driven, feared self-promoter who identified the key protein that revolutionized prion study.

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Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jessi | 2/10/2014

    " I was expecting a book about a particular family and their disease. Instead, it's a discussion of prion diseases. It took me a little longer because of that and there were definitely some medical language sinkholes that I had to wade through but it was overall a book I enjoyed even if one I probably wouldn't have read if I had realized what it was about. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 John | 2/3/2014

    " Max writes an interesting history of the discovery of prion diseases, beginning with an Italian family that suffers a genetic disposition to a fatal insomnia. He covers pretty much the whole history I guess - scrapie, kuru, BSE, and C-JD. He spends a lot of time explaining how agricultural practices made scrapie, and then BSE, much more widespread than they should have been, and how regulatory inaction may have led to many people becoming infected with prions from BSE cattle. I learned a lot. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 David Glenn Dixon | 2/2/2014

    " Not really about sleeplessness but prion diseases, cannibalism, and the perviest Nobel laureate ever. Believe it or not, I wanted to read about sleeplessness. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andrea | 1/29/2014

    " Very interesting book about BSE (mad cow disease)and similar neurological diseases. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lynne | 1/24/2014

    " An unusual book that I picked up at the library. It is a wide ranging review an the history of prion related diseases. A very worthwhile read, which shed a lot of light on some of the medical crises of recent times. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Anna Gardiner | 1/7/2014

    " Interesting book about prions and the different diseases they cause. I liked the way the author tied the main story into several others and then covered the political and scientific ramifications that have resulted from prion research. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rachel | 12/29/2013

    " A fascinating historical and medical perspective on fatal familial insomnia and prion disorders in general, highlighting historical and modern controversies on these fascinating diseases. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sarahfina | 12/25/2013

    " This book is about a protein called a prion that creates bizarre diseases in people and animals. They book is a little dry with quite a bit of history and medical jargon but it's ultimately such a fascinating history of disease that it compels you through the dry parts. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sarah Rose Nordgren | 11/27/2013

    " This book is amazing. LOVE. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Terrica G. | 10/20/2013

    " I am so glad that I do not eat meat! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 JuliAnna | 10/12/2013

    " Only a small portion of the book is devoted to the family mentioned in the title. Rather this is a well-written, easy to read introduction to the diseases related to prions and the research (and politics) surrounding them. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Suzy | 10/11/2013

    " This was one of the most boring books I have ever listened to. The content was there to make it interesting, but it just was not. I do not recommend this book unless you need to sleep. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ami | 9/8/2013

    " very much like the book on Henrietta Lack: personal story mixed with biology "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Paula | 1/23/2013

    " Wow, an incredible "medical mystery" about Fatal Familial Insomnia, a rare neurodegenerative disease that has plagued a family in Italy for over 200 yrs - and is connected to Mad Cow Disease. By the end, I was scared to eat a hamburger! "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kim | 4/12/2012

    " I wanted to like it. It was too sciency. I got bored. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Paul J | 3/9/2012

    " Ever here of someone who died of old age? Dimentia? Some unexplainable cause? This book will enlighten you on prions, the same non-living lurkers that cause Alzheimer's. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sharlagibbs184 | 2/27/2012

    " Riveting. If you are familiar with pathophysiology and find medical mysteries intriguing, this is an interesting read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Connie | 2/10/2012

    " Not sure why I gave this book a 4 sra,,it was a little lower on the scale. I read this book last summer . Was interesting, but not so entertaing as I got further into it. Basiclly tells of ppl who had some form of mad cow disease. Interesting in places. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gwendalyn McHugh | 1/22/2012

    " just started - but interesting so far. And prions scare the bejeezebus out of me. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lynsey | 11/3/2011

    " This book is an interesting and detailed account of prion diseases. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to a scienc-y person - as it is more novelized and sensationalized than other science texts. Good look into the scary reality of prions though... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Claire | 11/1/2011

    " Interesting read. As a non-science minded person, I appreciated the back stories of the scientists and the interesting tales of the various manifestations of the disease way more than the descriptions of brain plaque and mis-folding proteins. I feel a bit more informed for having read this. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Marty | 7/15/2011

    " Loved it. Fascinating and scary. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Anna | 5/30/2011

    " Enquiring minds want to know...interesting/scary diseases. It is so unusual to not be able to destroy the protein. That said, the author seemed to think it was no big deal that one of the scientists was a pedophile. Seriously? That was disgusting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sharlagibbs184 | 5/30/2011

    " Riveting. If you are familiar with pathophysiology and find medical mysteries intriguing, this is an interesting read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alicia | 5/29/2011

    " I listened to this via Audible. It was a great introduction to prion diseases. The author's depiction if the characters and controversies surrounding different prion discoveries kept the book from being too dry. I'd recommend this to anyone interested in epidemiology or medical discovery.
    "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sarah | 3/13/2011

    " At times very clinical and hard to read, but there were some interesting aspects regarding prion disease. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cat | 3/7/2011

    " This goes over the history of prion disease, I couldn't put it down very very interesting! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 saricima | 1/29/2011

    " it seems that the family was only one of many facets of the subject of this book. there was also a lot about "mad cow disease", and "prions" "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Isabelle | 1/27/2011

    " What a fascinating book ! Very very interesting... and scary. It will turn anyone into a vegetarian. Well written. A must for everyone to read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mikee | 1/2/2011

    " A non-fiction account of prion diseases written on many levels. Mixes science and personal stories in a sensitive and understandable way. A skilled writer. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Andi | 1/1/2011

    " An intriguing read all about prions. May not sound that interesting, but I found it to be fascinating. The middle part did drag quite a bit and the pacing slowed with so many details, but I thought the author wrapped it all up in the end. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Connie | 12/22/2010

    " Not sure why I gave this book a 4 sra,,it was a little lower on the scale. I read this book last summer . Was interesting, but not so entertaing as I got further into it. Basiclly tells of ppl who had some form of mad cow disease. Interesting in places. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Julie | 10/15/2010

    " Learned alot about prions. It could have been shorter and still been as informative. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 John | 9/25/2010

    " Great book especially after the publicity of Mad Cow disease a few years ago. A truly horrible disease one in which the world would be a very different place if it was transferred more readily between animals and humans. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lynne | 9/17/2010

    " I loved this book. It went far beyond Fatal Familial Insomnia into prions, related disorders and proteins. All in a very engaging way. "

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