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W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology

The Autoimmune Diseases 5th Edition

Edited by Noel R. Rose and Ian R. Mackay

In many respects the equivalent of an impact factor for a book is the number of editions.  I was pleased, therefore, when Academic Press wrote to me asking when they could expect a fifth edition of our textbook, The Autoimmune Diseases. Judging from its sales, the book must be having some significant impact on the field.

The history of this book goes back to 1979-1980. I was on sabbatical at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia. A letter reached me from Academic Press asking if I would consider writing a book on autoimmune thyroid disease. After a bit of soul searching I wrote back and said I would rather prepare a novel volume bringing together all of the autoimmune diseases with emphasis on their common features. Since no one had ever written such a book, Academic Press showed a bit of publishing courage in agreeing to the proposal. I immediately enlisted the help of my colleague at the Institute, Ian Mackay. Ian was the main collaborator of F.N. Barnett when he developed his clonal selection theory and his concept of the forbidden clone as the cause of autoimmune diseases. Ian was then Director of the Clinical Research unit at the Hall Institute and one of the few clinicians in the world who was comfortable with seeing patients with the broad spectrum of autoimmune disorders. He felt as I did that a great deal of knowledge would be gained in understanding the fundamental mechanisms underlying the whole family of autoimmune diseases.

The first volume aNoel Roseppeared in 1985. Between the two of us, Ian and I knew most of the leading investigators in the autoimmune disease field in the United States, Europe and Australia.  Each agreed to contribute a chapter on his special disease with   emphasis on the  common links. The result was a 706-page book. It dealt with only 20 of the best studied autoimmune diseases, but really illustrated how much could be gained both in the clinic and the research laboratory if the diseases were looked at collectively. Fortunately, Burnett wrote a foreword which added to the credibility of this approach.

The second volume included a great deal of new material and expanded greatly the scope of the contents. By the time a third edition was due in the mid 1990s, we were talking openly about the threads uniting all of the autoimmune diseases. As a matter of fact, I had started the Autoimmune Disease Research Center here at Hopkins and the First International Congress on Autoimmune Diseases was held in Paris.

In the third and fourth editions, we decided to divide the book into three sections. The first section related to the basic principles underlying autoimmunity and autoimmune diseases. The second section covered the large spectrum of autoimmune disorders with emphasis on the commonalties, and the third section dealt with some of the practical issues involved in translating the accumulating knowledge to the clinic. The new fifth edition follows the same blueprint. The section on the basic immunology of autoimmunity and autoimmune disease has now grown to encompass more than half of the book. The descriptions of individual diseases emphasize common genetics and co-occurrence. The third section now includes a great deal more on prediction and prevention of autoimmune diseases.

We had many wonderful experiences in our exchanges with all of the authors. They represent the leading names in our field. Perhaps the nicest part was to get a flood of letters after they received their individual copy, thanking us for the opportunity to take part in the project. It made all of the long nights worthwhile.