Q&A: Siddhartha Mukherjee on the rapid pace of cancer research and ‘luminous’ life of cells

The first cells Siddhartha Mukherjee ever saw were T cells, pulled from a mouse spleen and plated onto the microscope slide, given chemicals to coax them to grow. When he looked down the scope, he was struck by the life in them, marveling at what he called their “inner glow and luminous fullness.”

That thrill Mukherjee feels each time he sees life under the microscope carries into his new book, “The Song of the Cell.” The book is at once a kind of freewheeling adventure through the history of the cell — from the first microscopes to the highly engineered CAR-T cells that cured once “incurable” leukemia patients — and a personal reflection on human health, disease, and the rapid pace of cellular medicine.

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