The Angel and the Assassin

The Angel and the Assassin:
The Tiny Brain Cell that Changed the Course of Medicine

(Random House/Ballantine 1/21/2020)

by Donna Jackson Nakazawa

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A page-turning story of scientific detective work and thrilling medical potential, The Angel and the Assassin illuminates the newly-understood role of microglia—an elusive type of brain cell that is vitally relevant to our everyday lives.

Until recently, microglia were thought to be 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 activates 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 unveils a breaking new unifying theory of disease: microglia-triggered brain “inflammation” plays a stunning role in the most intractable brain disorders of our time – depression, OCD, bipolar disorder, autism, schizophrenia, post-concussion syndrome, neurological autoimmune disease, and Alzheimer’s – and treatments designed to “reboot” microglia show promise in stopping the disease process.  She follows practitioners and patients on the front lines of treatments – from transcranial magnetic stimulation and intermittent fasting to neurofeedback 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.

Praise for The Angel and the Assassin

“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 patient’s appreciation for high the stakes truly are.” 
—Susannah Cahalan, New York Times bestselling author of Brain on Fire

“An inspiring account…will provide a game-changing view of health for generations of researchers, clinicians and citizens for years to come. Bravo!” 
—Dan Siegel, MD, Clinical Professor, UCLA School of Medicine, author of Mindsight

 “The Angel and the Assassin is riveting, engaging. Nakazawa’s work is visionary.” 
—Terry Wahls, MD, author The Wahls Protocol

“Few non-fiction writers can tell the tale of scientific inquiry so vividly 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 of the Lown Institute, author of Overtreated

 “[This] is the rarest of books, a combination of page-turning discovery and remarkably readable scientific journalism. A book to both savor and share.”
—Mark Hyman, MD, Director, The Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, New York Times bestselling author of Food

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, the way it has transformed the most basic ideas of who we are as humans. It is especially essential reading for women, who face depression, Alzheimer’s and autoimmune disorders at higher rates than men.” 
—Peggy Orenstein, New York Times bestselling author of Girls & Sex

 “Colorful, page-turning, and accessible…. I have great hope for the practical application of what [Jackson Nakazawa] reveals.”
—Amy Myers, MD, New York Times bestselling author of The Autoimmune Solution

“Jackson Nakazawa puts forth a revolutionary new way of thinking about the brain’s immune system and its interactions with [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, MD, New York Times bestselling author of Healthy Aging

“A deft, scientific story about the ‘Cinderella’ cell of the brain, microglia . . . Jackson Nakazawa explains the possible translation of the science into solutions for brain disorders, health and disease.” 
—Thomas Insel, MD, Former Director, National Institute of Mental Health 2002 – 2015 

 “A captivating, page-turning story of the scientific discoveries that overturn centuries of medical dogma. The Angel and the Assassin offers extraordinary promise and heralds new hope … paradigm shifting reading for us all.”
—Christina Bethell, PhD, MBH, MPH, Professor of Child Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

“An impressive, inspiring, timely call to arms.” 
—Susannah Tye, PhD, Director of the Translational Neuroscience Laboratory, Mayo Clinic

“A captivating look at the new science altering our understanding of a range of conditions that especially affect women.”
—Maya Dusenbery, author of Doing Harm

“Provocative and eloquent of the cutting-edge research that proves the intimate connection between mind and body… Sets the stage for a paradigm shift for clinicians and researchers in the decades to come.”
—Ruth Lanius, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry University of Western Ontario, coauthor of The Impact of Early Life Trauma on Health and Disease

The Angel and the Assassin is a must read for everyone interested in the new science of brain health.” 
—Louann Brizendine, MD, author of The Female Brain and The Male Brain

The Angel and the Assassin

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The Angel and the Assassin, mentioned by Dr. Christina Bethell as an important coming resource for understanding the biophysical link between trauma and mental health disorders at the July 11 Congressional Committee for Oversight and Reform at the congressional hearing on Identifying, Preventing, and Treating Childhood Trauma.