A thrilling story of scientific detective work and medical potential that illuminates the newly understood role of microglia—an elusive type of brain cell that is vitally relevant to our everyday lives.
“The rarest of books: a combination of page-turning discovery and remarkably readable science journalism.”—Mark Hyman, MD, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?
Until recently, microglia were thought to be merely the brain’s housekeepers, helpfully removing damaged cells. But a recent groundbreaking discovery revealed them to be capable of terrifying Jekyll and Hyde behavior. When triggered—and anything that stirs up the immune system in the body can activate microglia—they can morph into destroyers, impacting a wide range of issues from memory problems and anxiety to depression and Alzheimer’s. Under the right circumstances, however, microglia can be coaxed back into being angelic healers, able to repair the brain in ways that help alleviate symptoms and hold the promise to one day prevent disease.
A fascinating behind-the-scenes account of this cutting-edge science, The Angel and the Assassin also explores the medical implications of these game-changing discoveries. Award-winning journalist Donna Jackson Nakazawa began her investigation with a personal interest—when diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder years ago, she was convinced there was something physical going on in her brain as well as her body, though no doctor she consulted could explain how the two could be interacting in this way. With the compassion born of her own experience, she follows practitioners and patients on the front lines of treatments that help to “reboot” microglia—from neurofeedback and intermittent fasting to transcranial magnetic stimulation and gamma light flicker therapy. She witnesses patients finding significant relief from pressing symptoms—and at least one stunning recovery—offering new hope to the tens of millions who suffer from mental, cognitive, and physical health issues.
Proving once and for all the biological basis for the mind-body connection, the discovery of the true role of microglia stands to rewrite psychiatric and medical texts as we know them. Hailed as “riveting,” “stunning,” and “visionary,” The Angel and the Assassin offers us a radically reconceived picture of human health and promises to change everything we thought we knew about how to heal ourselves.
About the Author
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 has appeared on Today, NPR, NBC News, and ABC News, and her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Health Affairs, Aeon, More, Parenting, AARP Magazine, and Glamour, and has been featured on the cover of Parade as well as in Time and USA Today. She blogs for Psychology Today and HuffPost. Jackson Nakazawa 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.
“A fascinating deep dive into the unsung heroes (and villains) inside our skulls . . . Donna Jackson Nakazawa has a journalist’s eye for story, a scholar’s understanding of the research, and a patient’s appreciation for how high the stakes truly are.”—Susannah Cahalan, New York Times bestselling author of Brain on Fire
“An inspiring account that will provide a game-changing view of health for generations of researchers, clinicians, and citizens for years to come. Bravo!”—Dan Siegel, M.D., clinical professor, UCLA School of Medicine, and executive director of the Mindsight Institute
“Riveting, engaging, and visionary.”—Terry Wahls, M.D., author of The Wahls Protocol
“Colorful, page-turning, and accessible . . . I have great hopes for the practical application of what Jackson Nakazawa reveals.”—Amy Myers, M.D., New York Times bestselling author of The Autoimmune Solution
“Few nonfiction writers can tell the tale of scientific inquiry so vividly that the reader can feel the excitement of discovery with every word. Donna Jackson Nakazawa is one of those writers, and this book tells the tale of one of the most intriguing and groundbreaking discoveries in all of medicine.”—Shannon Brownlee, senior vice president, Lown Institute, and author of Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer
“The Angel and the Assassin is one of those astonishing medical yarns that you almost can’t believe: how the power of this tiny cell was so long overlooked, how integral it has become to our understanding of neuroscience and immunology, how it has transformed the most basic ideas of who we are as humans. The book is especially essential reading for women, who face depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and autoimmune disorders at higher rates than men.”—Peggy Orenstein, New York Times bestselling author of Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape
“Jackson Nakazawa puts forth a revolutionary new way of thinking about the brain’s immune system and its interactions with immune function in the rest of the body. Much of the information here was new to me and has made me more optimistic about the future of medicine.”—Andrew Weil, M.D., New York Times bestselling author of Eight Weeks to Optimum Health and Healthy Aging