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Glowing Genes: A Revolution In Biotechnology Hardcover – February 1, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 222 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (February 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591022533
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591022534
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,252,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Green fluorescent pigment (GFP), made naturally by jellyfish, has recently sparked a biological revolution. "GFP is a fantastically useful protein" because it can monitor and track other proteins "inside a living organism, without disrupting any molecular processes." As Connecticut College chemist Zimmer shows, scientists have cloned the gene for GFP and attached it to other genes in a wide array of organisms, from rabbits to monkeys and fish. When these other genes are turned on, GFP is produced and individual cells begin to glow. The diagnostic uses for this technique are critically important and varied. GFP may help with the early diagnosis of cancer, with tracking the spread of pathogenic bacteria and may provide a relatively quick and easy assay for anthrax, among other exciting uses. Additionally, GFP has already helped scientists better understand developmental processes in organisms, which may lead to cures for such diseases as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. While Zimmer is moderately successful in presenting the excitement associated with these breakthroughs, his clumsy prose often gets in the way of his message. His transitions between topics are so obtuse that much of his text reads like a series of extended digressions. Zimmer is at his best when explaining basic biology and chemistry; as his subject gets more complex, his explanations become more difficult to follow.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

It is the topic of numerous technical papers, reports chemistry professor Zimmer, but it rarely surfaces in the mass media unless the biotechnologists whip up something astonishingly weird. It is green fluorescent protein (GFP), by which fireflies and jellyfish illuminate themselves, and for which the cloners have found numerous potential applications. One of GFP's infrequent references in the news concerned Alba the fluorescent rabbit, displayed as an exhibit of "transgenic art." Drawing attention to this arena of genetic engineering, Zimmer describes what can be done with GFP, whether benevolent (testing the efficacy of disinfectants, replacing radioactive tests as detectors of cancer), frivolous (creating fluorescent pets), or alarming (cloning people in unnatural colors). Acknowledging the dual-edged bioethical ramifications of GFP, Zimmer does not elaborate on them but remains informatively focused on lab research. He also profiles the principal scientists who isolated GFP, found its causative gene, and determined its molecular shape. A timely alert on a fast-changing biotechnology. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Marc Zimmer was born in a small town in South Africa. He wanted to be a game warden when he grew-up, but his mother wanted him to be a medical doctor. Although his handwriting is worthy of prescription pads he went to university with the intent of becoming game ranger. However, his dreams of looking after herds of elephants were terminated by an introductory botany course, which he failed. Fortunately he discovered the joy and fascination of playing with molecules. This resulted in a change in majors from biology to chemistry. While at the University of Witwatersrand he somehow managed to pass chemistry and find his future wife, Dianne, or perhaps she found him. Partly out of interest and partly out of a need to avoid the South African (apartheid) military service he came to the United States, where he got his Ph.D. in chemistry from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and did his post-doc at Yale University. He has been at Connecticut College for the last 20 years where he teaches chemistry and studies the proteins involved in producing light in jellyfish and fireflies. He has given talks about his research in India, Cuba, South Africa, all over Europe and the United States of America. Marc is married, has two children, Matthew and Caitlin, and 3 genetically modified fluorescent axolotls called Pliny, Edgar and Maximillian. He is currently working on a book entitled "Illuminating Disease". Marc has published over 60 research papers about cow flatulence, computational chemistry and bioluminescence in fireflies and jellyfish. His research on Green Fluorescent Protein is funded by the Research Corporation, Dreyfus Foundation and National Institute of Health.

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Achim Peter on April 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It's a long time that I have been so fascinated by a popular science book as now happened, reading "Glowing Genes". Marc Zimmer neatly explains what one needs to know about genetics and chemistry. But that is not all. Since I read the book a few weeks ago,

· I have become more sensitive to and interested in the benefits of research done for the sake of discovering secrets of nature, as opposed to primarily profit motivated research.

· I believe to understand that not all cloning of animals is harmful, that the pros and cons have to be weighed in each case,

· And having read "Glowing Genes" and Bill Bryson's "A short history of nearly everything", I often wonder how many inventors and first discoverers are forgotten or intentionally not recorded.

Reading "Glowing Genes" is a fun-tour of discovery. My mostly outdated High School Science seems to have been enough background to understand the well explained complex issues. I did have problems though with chapter 12. Perhaps I should read it once more.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Maynard Handley on June 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I have to say that this was a very poorly edited book littered with bizarre mistakes: grammatical, spelling, and elementary history (the introduction talks about 17th century Victorian ladies!). The writing style veers from something targeted at teenagers to something more adult and back again, sometimes in one paragraph.

Having said that, this book really is worth reading, in spite of the style, because the science it describes is riveting. I was vaguely aware of fluorescence as something used by biologists, but the author really does a great job of covering the field; the history, the various ways in which fluorescence is used, the ways in which the essential chemistry of the subject has been modified over the past few years. I'm a sucker for pop science books but, sadly, most of them rehash material that any educated person should already know. It's rare to find one, like this, that not only is packed with material that I did not know but that also manages to weave it all into a coherent narrative.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Angie on April 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book because I was fascinated by the pictures on the cover and read it to see if scientists can really make pigs with glowing noses. They can and they can do so much more. This book was very interesting and was easy to read. I finished it in one go. The author acknowledges Bill Bryson as one of his influences and you can clearly see that in his writing style ...perhaps thats why I enjoyed it so much. Glowing Genes also has cool pictures of a glowing bunny and fluorescent fruit fly sperm. It presents the complete story of GFP and the firefly protein - from the early scientists who caught 1000's of jellyfish and fruit flies to the newest applications. Read it, you will enjoy it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Panda on January 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was shocked when I saw the pictures inside the book showing mice and pigs with glowing ears and nose, glowing tumors in mice's heads and an entirely green fluorescent rabbit. I put the book away thinking poor animals, their fellows will probably reject them, not to mention that it might hurt them or alter their normal functioning in some way. After some months I decided that remaining ignorant of what is being done in this research area would not help these animals in any way, so I decided to get informed in order to be able to form a better opinion on the matter. After reading the book I can still not make up my mind about the topic, but at least I am a bit more aware of the pros and cons. The book is an easy reading and requires no previous knowledge on the subject. It gives a broad overview of the matter without really going into the details of the experiments or the precise methods employed in the mentioned studies (which sometimes I would have liked).

The painstaking process that various scientists performed in order to obtain flouresent proteins from living organisms, artificially synthesize these proteins, and even to modify their related genes to obtain different colors and timings makes for a good narrative. Bioluminiscent organisms emit their "own" light: fireflies produce "luciferin + luciferase" that together emit light, while jellyfish (medusas) produce a green fluorescent protein (GFP) which in turn can produce a blue light in the presence of certain minerals. Fluorescent organisms, like corals, need to receive certain external radiation to fluoresce.

Fluorescent genes can be used as protein or gene markers (tags).
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