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July 24, 1996

Genes, Blood and Courage: A Boy Called Immortal Sword

Author Affiliations

St Jude Children's Research Hospital Memphis, Tenn

JAMA. 1996;276(4):335-336. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540040079042

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


This beautifully written book captures in a rich and multitextured fabric many of the themes of modern medicine and biomedical research during their evolution over the past four decades. It is about a young man who has severe β-thalassemia, an inherited, transfusion-dependent anemia. The patient is now approaching middle age, having survived with the help of a concerned and skilled physician-scientist.

Throughout his career in biomedical research, Dr David G. Nathan, chairman of pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital, has remained dedicated to the survival of this patient, achieved with the tools of modern medicine and science. From the interwoven stories of the patient with a usually fatal disease and the physician-scientist dedicated to understanding mechanisms of this disease and improving its treatment, the reader is afforded many insights into the evolution of modern medicine and the revolution in genetics that has carried us to the threshold of gene therapy for