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Cells, Gels and the Engines of Life 1st Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0962689529
ISBN-10: 0962689521
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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 and Sons Publishers; 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
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,495 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

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Comment 85 of 91 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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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
Comment 60 of 65 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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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.
1 Comment 57 of 62 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
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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