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Coming to Life: How Genes Drive Development Hardcover – June 1, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
The topic is not the development of organisms in general, but of animals -- and only those animals (including us humans and most of the others that are important to us), who are called bilaterians because our bodies have left-right symmetry. We also have distinct anterior and posterior ends, with a mouth at one end and an anus at the other; and we have ventral and dorsal sides (front and back in us humans). In the very beginning of development, chemicals are produced in the right places to say, in effect, "This will be front.", "This will be rear.", and so on. All these chemicals do is to switch on genes that will begin to give shape to the embryo. This is the beginning of a process that goes from a single cell to a very rough shape through stepwise refinements to the final mature animal. This systematic development is what makes the subject interesting and accessible to us non-scientists.
Nusslein-Volhard tells the story at a rather elementary level. She covers only a few of the many developmental genes - so that the reader doesn't have to memorize a lot of names - and she says little about molecular mechanisms. She also focuses on the formation of the embryo, with some discussion of the larval and fetal stages and little about adults.Read more ›
Embryology is all about morphogens - chemicals secreted by organizer cells that influence genes in other cells by their concentration gradient. This is where our author has spent her life, becoming only the 11th woman in history to win a Nobel prize in science. She is among the key players who have brought embryology to the center stage of current research in biology.
There have been major advancements in our understanding of evolution over the past twenty years. For example: Scientists expected a lot more human genes than 25,000 - that's not too many more than are in a worm. Embryologists began to study evo-devo - how the embryo changed into an adult. Genetic researchers (like Nusslein-Volhard) discovered "core genes" such as the Hox genes that direct body segmentation and the tinman genes that create hearts. Adjacent to the coding genes, "gene switches" were found in the junk DNA. These switches respond to the morphogens, rearranging the effects of the core genes, encouraging dramatic evolutionary change. It came as a surprise that virtually the same core (modular?) genes were found in diverse species - from fungi to humans.
Most successful (nonlethal) mutations were found among the gene switches.Read more ›
The book contains:
a brief historical review of important developments in the history of biology
an account of how complex segmentation of an embryo could be accomplished from simple morphogenic gradients (probably the best part)
a brief review of development in various model organisms (fly, chicken, mouse)
an attempt to relate this to human development
discussion of current ethical issues
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Consider this: When a fetus is growing -- and note there is no central nervous system yet -- how does the right limb-protrusion ensure that the otherside is going to produce... Read morePublished 9 months ago by kumar vadaparty
This is a great book. The author is the brilliant scientist and you feel on every page that she understands what she is talking about to the fullest. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Alexei Rudakov
Christiane Nusslein-Volhard won a share in the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1985 for her work on the genetic control of embryonic development. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Edward Durney
I had to buy this for a cell bio class; it sucked. if you're into drosophila literature. then maybe this is for you.Published on February 21, 2014 by Graham
made simple to read. i wouldn't of bought it if it wasn't an assigned reading but it was a very good book make concepts clear.Published on November 13, 2013 by Mzraim
Coming to Life is the best and most succinct overview of evolution in biology. It is amazing that a Nobel laureate would even care about communicating with the general public, but... Read morePublished on June 20, 2013 by Jeanne Guillemin
Professor Nusslein-Volhard appears to have augmented lecture notes from several biology classes to come up with a book. Read morePublished on March 18, 2010 by 99th BG
This was a great book for someone who doesn't know a lot about genes or development. The book was easy to read and wasn't hard to understand what the author was trying to explain. Read morePublished on October 5, 2008 by Felicia A. Yates
This book was pretty good. The material is a little tedious, and not presented in quite a "fun" scientific way (think Sean Carroll). Read morePublished on December 17, 2007 by John