on January 12, 2013
Well, in science, the ability to repeat things (reproducibility) is actually desirable, but you get my point... :)
As a scientist myself (whose work involves quite a bit of RNA biology), I've always been interested in the history behind the amazing discoveries in science. We tend to take for granted the seemingly simple truths we know today: e.g. DNA is the genetic material of inheritance (with the exception of some viruses of course), the genetic code, etc. But finding those truths was far from simple: men and women spent years, often times decades of their lives answering those questions. It is easy to forget sometimes that we didn't always know what we know.
This is a history book. It starts from the foundations of molecular biology...early investigations of proteins (which were long suspected to play the role that we now know DNA does), discovery of "nuclein" (DNA), etc. Dr. James Darnell, an accomplished RNA researcher himself, gives you the who, where, what, why, and how of the major discoveries in molecular biology, leading to the specialized field of RNA biology. We see how RNA went from being thought of as a rather uninteresting biomolecule to the multi-functional, extremely diverse class of molecules we know it is today. Reproductions of figures from key papers are presented to illustrate those discoveries. The book leads us to the current day work in small non-coding RNAs.
All in all, this is a wonderful book for the biology/molecular biology/biochemistry undergraduate, graduate, or professor. You likely will need some background knowledge in basic molecular biology/genetics, but if you have that foundation, this book will be a valuable read.
on October 2, 2012
Our expert guide is Dr. James Darnell, a honored senior scientist at the Rockefeller University in New York City. Dr. Darnell spent many years at the laboratory bench. His early work on viruses includes investigation of poliovirus at a time when there was no immunization against it, true dedication! The first chapter in his book recounts the early days of protein chemistry and chemical analysis of chromosomes, which led to the assertion that DNA was the genetic material , by Avery, Macleod, and McCarty. With the Watson and Crick model of DNA, a whole new era began. In Chapter 2, Darnell emphasizes that precise genetic information is present in both DNA and RNA. Using extracts from plant viruses, Darnell proved that the plant viruses he studied had 3% RNA and no DNA. This indicated the importance of RNA. In the bacterial genome, studies led to the discovery of "Messenger RNA" as an important template for protein synthesis. Messenger RNA permitted the rapid starting and stopping of enzyme synthesis. The concept emerged of a comma-less triplet code that must be read from a fixed starting point three bases at a time (A Nobel Prize for Severo Ochoa). The discussion continues to include "start and stop" signals, nonsense codons and mis-sense mutants when the wrong amino acid was inserted. In careful experiments, Darnell and colleagues were able to characterize four nuclear RNA species. The later discovery, by David Baltimore, of reverse transcriptase made it possible to copy RNA into DNA. Throughout Dr. Darnell's book, he has placed many drawings about the exact way that these little proteins interact with each other. These diagrams make it possible to understand the fine aspects of the interactions of these proteins, making possible a great learning experience. A short, very readable, section at the end of the book has some interesting thoughts about the origins of life.
on September 5, 2011
As nowadays we are benefiting from the the many outcomes of high-throughput molecular biology, the articulate hypothesis-driven research is often being neglected. This book provides some interesting glimpse into those historical discoveries regarding the RNA world from an era which was poor in prior knowledge and had to heavily rely on hypothesis-driven research. If you are a student and you look for "fundamentals of the RNA world" of today- you may want to look for other books. Teachers and senior researches will find this book extremely interesting, if they have the time for it.