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Cells, Gels and the Engines of Life [Paperback]

Gerald H. Pollack
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 10, 2001 0962689521 978-0962689529 1
This book describes how cells work. It challenges the current wisdom of cell function, and presents a new, simpler approach to fundamental processes such as movement, transport, division, and communication, based on sound physical principles. The book is profusely illustrated with many color figures. It is written for the non-expert in an accessible, often humorous style.

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Editorial Reviews


"Full of deep physical insights into biological structure / function relationships. I found it refreshingly iconoclastic, sensible, and believable." -- Peter Basser, Chief, Tissue Biophysics and Biomimetics, National Institutes of Health

About the Author

Dr. Gerald Pollack is a world leader in the area of muscle contraction and cell motility. He is currently Professor of Bioengineering at the University of Washington. His previous book, "Muscles and Molecules: Uncovering the Principles of Biological Motion" was recipient of an "Excellence Award" from the Society for Technical Communiction.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ebner & Sons; 1 edition (March 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0962689521
  • ISBN-13: 978-0962689529
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 8.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Professor Gerald Pollack is Founding Editor-in-Chief of the scientific journal, WATER and is recognized as an international leader in science and engineering.

The University of Washington Faculty chose Pollack, in 2008, to receive their highest annual distinction: the Faculty Lecturer Award. He was the 2012 recipient of the coveted Prigogine Medal for thermodynamics of dissipative systems. He has received an honorary doctorate from Ural State University in Ekaterinburg, Russia, and was more recently named an Honorary Professor of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Foreign Member of the Srpska Academy. Pollack is a Founding Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering and a Fellow of both the American Heart Association and the Biomedical Engineering Society. He recently received an NIH Director's Transformative R01 Award for his work on water, and maintains an active laboratory in Seattle.

Pollack's interests have ranged broadly, from biological motion and cell biology to the interaction of biological surfaces with aqueous solutions. His 1990 book, Muscles and Molecules: Uncovering the Principles of Biological Motion, won an "Excellence Award" from the Society for Technical Communication; two subsequent books: Cells, Gels and the Engines of Life, and The Fourth Phase of Water, both won that Society's "Distinguished Award."

Pollack is recognized worldwide as a dynamic speaker and a scientist willing to challenge any long-held dogma that does not fit the facts

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
66 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revolutionary and courageous October 23, 2002
This book is heretical and courageous, and - if it can escape burning - may become a seminal landmark in our understanding of living systems. Based to a large extent on the pioneering (and often unfairly derided) work of Gilbert Ling, the book focuses on the importance of the gel-like nature of living cytoplasm - the interior of living cells - at the expense of the vaunted cell membrane. It turns out that cells can do fairly well without intact cell membranes because many functions attributed to the membrane are actually accomplished by gel properties of sub-membrane cytoskeleton of actin, microtubules and other protein structures. Pollack provides evidence that patch clamp techniques, which claim to study isolated membranes (and have provided much of the "evidence" for membrane ion channel and ion pumping mechanisms) include sub-membrane actin cytoskeleton which, according to Pollack, is actually regulating ionic fluxes and concentrations.
The book describes how cytoplasmic gels manifest collective phase transitions such as polymerization of actin proteins with accompanying ordering of cell water and exclusion of large cations. According to Pollack, these collective phase transitions can explain not only ionic fluxes, but also voltage gradients, propagating action potentials, mitosis, muscle contraction and cell movement. Ion channels and pumps are not mythical, but overstated. Pollack traces the roots of (in his view) the "membrane-centric" misconceptions and his proposed revolution is believable. Our cells are not bags of liquid governed by membrane activities, but protein matrix-based gels covered by a thin semi-permeable membrane "skin". The cytoplasm is intrinsically reactive and able to maintain cell homeostasis and functions.
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Changed My View of Science March 15, 2004
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
During my senior year of bioengineering at ASU, one of my instructors recommended that I read this book. I went on Amazon and purchased a copy. Tragically, I let it sit on my shelf for almost six months without reading it. About a year ago, I picked it up and read it, expecting it to be a labor-intensive read. It was not. Instead, in very simple terms and using simple yet convincing examples, Pollack managed to challenge everything I ever learned in school in two days (It only took two days because I found myself reading this book every chance I got; I coult not put it down).
Challenging even many of the basic tenets of cellular biology-- from even the existance of selective ion channels in the fluid mosaic model of the cell wall to blowing the lid off of what every student is taught in school about the way muscle cells contract--Pollack writes a book that has been and will continue to be challenging, because it challenges the premises of the life-long work of many scientists.
While I'm sure that some of his critiques of the beliefs of the faith of cellular biology today will prove to be wrong, Pollack is not afraid of the challenge or the community backlash against him. I applaud the work. I recommend it as required reading for just about everybody: the writing style makes it accessible for even high school students, but it is not too plebian to challenge even a professor or researcher in the area.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a non-biologist (nuclear chemist/experimental physicist) I read Dr. Pollack's book with interest, in 2006, and found it relevant to our work - and plausible. However, I made a mistake and read a review, by apparently a fellow Faculty (Alexander Stein), enclosed below.
Reading it - peremptorily, admittedly - I decided not to learn more about biology...
Recently I found out that Dr. Pollack got the highest reward from his fellow Faculty for his research. By the way, it still is very relevant to our research. We do plan to pursue it.
It's true I should have gone deeper into this - but one simply cannot do everything.
The way Amazon manages these reviews is flawed ("the highest and the lowest"). Perhaps there should be a warning that there is a significant probability that some reviews may not be done in good faith.

The flawed review:
"Dr. Pollack is an embarrassment to his field and his University. This book is a collection of old results (from as far back as 50 years ago) that puzzled the world's scientists at the time they were first published. There has been much progress in the intervening decades that Dr. Pollack would do well to read and understand. All of the ancient science upon which..."
Robert F Holub
Research Professor
CARES, Clarkson University
Potsdam, NY
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fresh new look into cell function April 14, 2001
This great book fundamentally changed the way I think about cells. It is not one of your typical cell biology textbooks that only show you the a priori views about cells, leaving out the findings not fitting their overall picture. This book takes you from the very basic laws of physics and chemistry and explains the common cell functions step by step. On the way, it challenges many dogmatic views about cells and introduces very logical and simple new mechanisms. It has a great narrative, which makes you think and speculate, almost like a good mystery novel. I strongly recommend this book to any open-minded science-lover with an interest in cell biology.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book with Far-Reaching Importance in Prevention and Treatment of...
I learned about this book and Dr. Pollack's more recent book "The Fourth Phase of Water: Beyond Solid, Liquid, and Vapor" (2013; see my separate review) through health educator,... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Roderic L. Olsen
5.0 out of 5 stars I've already worn out two copies.
This is a very casual book dealing with a very serious and important issue. Control of water state is behind everything the nervous system does, and that is my favorite subject on... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Jonathan D. Lettvin
5.0 out of 5 stars a fascinating book
This is an exciting book revisiting old models of cells and proposing new ways of looking at structure, permeability, water, etc. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Catre
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating theory about cells, water, and more
Pollack's theory, backed by a whole host of experiments, is totally fascinating. He very respectfully points out the gaping holes in current theories about cells and how biological... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Scott Ogrin
5.0 out of 5 stars A multidisciplinary view that makes logical sense
Gerald Pollack is a genius, and a man of integrity. I studied old school cell biology and chemistry that failed to adequately explain the reason why cellular functions occured. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Gokhals
5.0 out of 5 stars Water + protein = gel; gel + ions+ ATP = CELL ( at least primitive)
Definitely must read for anyone who wants to study cellular biology.
If you want to know why there is more potassium than sodium inside the cell and not another way around or... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Benjamin Benzon
5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic scientific thinking in action questioning an old story
The most engaging science books tackle the narratives that scientists believe and on which they base study designs and interpretations. Read more
Published on January 2, 2012 by Konrad Graf
4.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction to cell biology
I think that this is interesting book both for students and professionals getting a knowledge in cell biology. Read more
Published on February 18, 2009 by Ildar Salakhutdinov
3.0 out of 5 stars "ENTROPY IS TIMES ARROW," he says.
Stars are only for creativity. For example, he adds, "the cell is very much an entropy machine." (P. 265) A more attractive title to this book would have been LIVING WATER. Read more
Published on August 22, 2006 by Worldreels
1.0 out of 5 stars Speaking as a current PhD candidate in biophysics...
This book is funny as hell. Honestly.

Any author who publishes their own book over material they apparently know very little about, and gets other people not only to... Read more
Published on April 4, 2006 by Randy
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