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The Epigenetics Revolution: How Modern Biology is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease and Inheritance [Hardcover]

Nessa Carey
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Sep 2011
Just over a decade since Matt Ridley's seminal Genome, Nessa Carey presents a hugely compelling explanation of the very latest from the frontline of modern biology. How is it that, despite each cell in your body carrying exactly the same DNA, you don't have teeth growing out of your eyeballs or toenails on your liver? How can one blueprint lead to so many different results? It turns out that cells read the genetic code in DNA more like a script to be interpreted than a mould that replicates the same result each time. This is epigenetics and it's the fastest-moving field in modern biology. The Epigenetics Revolution traces the thrilling path this discipline has taken over the last twenty years. Biologist Nessa Carey deftly explains such diverse phenomena as how queen bees and ants control their colonies, why tortoiseshell cats are always female, why some plants need a period of cold before they can flower, why we age, develop disease and become addicted to drugs, and much more. She concludes by investigating the amazing possibilities for the improvement of humankind that epigenetics offers for the surprisingly near future

Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books Ltd (1 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184831292X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848312920
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 462,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A book to make Darwin swoon - anyone seriously interested in who we are and how we function should read this.' --The Guardian

"Fascinating stuff."
--The Bookseller, 10 June 2011

About the Author

Nessa Carey has a PhD in virology from the University of Edinburgh and has worked in the biotech industry for nearly ten years.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An empowering book 27 Oct 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What a fabulous book! I couldn't put it down - best page turner I've read for years. Nessa Carey hits just the right note - beautifully clear and pitched at just the right level. She walks you gently through the science, building it up layer by layer, constantly reminding you of the basic facts without making you feel an idiot. All the history of epigenetics, right up to the most current research is covered, with a competent and knowledgable guiding hand. This book makes you think and question everything and it delivers answers to the most intriguing questions. Not only that but it was laced with humour and literary quotes that made reading it a delight. Hats off to Nessa! (Although everything is explained, I would warn readers that a basic knowledge of genetics would be an advantage.)
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69 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Science at the very edge 30 Dec 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Before I read this book my understanding of genetics was quite naive, I thought DNA made proteins, and if there are mutations in the DNA code then that leads to trouble, such as cancer. But only 2% of the human genome makes protein - what is the other 98% for?

Also consider this: A caterpillar that becomes a butterfly has exactly the same DNA - so why do they look so different?

The answer is 'epigenetics'. Whenever two genetically identical individuals are non-identical in some way we can measure, this is called epigenetics. This also includes an individual at different point in their life. For example why does horrendous abuse as a child often lead to problems later in life - is it psychological or is it embedded in the very genes of the person?

In the following sentence, before I read this book, I mostly understood the word 'within'.

"Histone Acetylation and DNA methylation within a CpG motif in the promoter region mediates gene expression ...."

By half way through this book I understood what this meant.

The author never hides the gritty details from the reader unlike many patronising popular science books that shy away from the scientific detail in case the reader finds it too difficult. She takes you step by step through the main details of epigenetics and the technical language used. It is not difficult, but you do have to take it slowly to digest the information.

To make the subject a bit lighter, the book is dotted with dry humour and pithy literary quotes.

Epigenetics is such a new field that many of the key players are still alive and working away in their laboratories and earning Nobel prizes along the way. She introduces you to some of the leading scientists and the contributions they are making.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Could hardly be more fascinating! 2 Jan 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Word of warning - I may gush! I'm no biologist, but Nessa Carey manages to make epigenetics clear and incredibly interesting to me. This is not an easy read, in that it requires one to think and occasionally to do a little mental gymnastics to get one's head around the concepts she introduces, but nevertheless it's the kind of book that can be gulped down in large servings because Carey is skilled at explaining these high-falutin' concepts so well.

The topics range from inherited traits to cloning and back again, and I found even the descriptions of how certain experiments were undertaken were such that they read incredibly well. This is a book that could havebeen dry as dust, but it's not.

I think probably one where the time taken to read the sample is well spent - I'm sure some people just won't find this that interesting - but if you are at all interested in science, biology, DNA, and the mystery of how things are and aren't passed on, then this is a must read. Absorbing, educational, and downright fascinating. Brilliant.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating to read. 5 Dec 2013
By Mike
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Breifly, the authoress knows her topic without question and the book opened my eyes to a plethora of information I was unaware of.

That said, the book for me was very taxing to read. I will admit that my knowledge of biology and chemistry stops at a college level. I have had no problems absorbing complex physics/other books and i feel this book is very much not pitched correctly at any level. It leaps from overly simplified analogies of say 'Imagine a grape inside a tennis ball' - that are really not needed and jumps straight into pretty advanced concepts that should be the ones simplified for general understanding.

I am not a fan of leaving poor reviews or diminishing anothers work, but honestly i think this is poorly structured/written. Anyone with a casual interest may find this a struggle and taxing as I did, constantly having to use wikipedia to clarify certain aspects. Those already versed in the field should know much of the contents already and thus surely has limited value to them.

I accept that possibly it's just me, bieng stupid, but this is the first book I have ever got actually frustrated with, and I tolerated the ramblings of Machievelli, countless theoretical/quantum physics papers and the vaugeness of 'Iconic' Psychiatrists.
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58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
By docread
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The promises of the widely hailed genomic revolution did not materialise.The mapping and sequencing of the human genome failed to set in motion great medical breakthroughs because it could only produce a map of the assembly software.It did't explain how it functioned with only 2% of the genome coding for proteins.The DNA blueprint is certainly a starting point but it isn't a sufficient explanation for the complexity of life.It is a script open to multiple interpretations rather than an unchanging mould.
Epigenetics is the new discipline that is revolutionising biology.It has found in Nessa Carey a most engaging and lucid exponent.She writes in a clear non patronising manner using interesting and witty analogies to bring to life a lot of dry biochemical or genetic concepts.Barely a page passes without a new morsel of knowledge is offered with enthusiasm.
Epigenetics describes the set of modifications to our genetic material that changes the ways the genes are switched on or off without altering the genome.Epigenetic modification doesn't change the sequence of a gene but it alters how and when the gene is expressed. It explains how two organisms can be genetically identical yet phenotypically variable, examples identical twins divergence,queen bees and worker bees,catterpillar and butterfly.
The Epigenome is the missing link between nature and nurture as it reflects environmental differences. Epigenetic modifications are heritable in the short term but do not involve mutation of the DNA . It is the mechanism behind transgenerational Lamarckian inheritance ,for instance poor food availability during crucial gestational development may lead to later pathological consequences visiting two successive generations.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written easy to understand
Well written easy to understand, I have enjoyed reading. For those who are interested in biology, cell biology and genetics.
Published 10 days ago by Sarah
5.0 out of 5 stars I believe that popular science is a great and fun way of learning new...
I believe that popular science is a great and fun way of learning new things and reinforcing previous. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Mat
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book
Published 1 month ago by Susan Robinson
4.0 out of 5 stars good insight into modern genetics
I enjoyed reading this book even if the style of writing could be better. It gives some insight into progress of genetics and its recent discoveries and challenges. Read more
Published 2 months ago by I. A. Jakubiak
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read for biology undergrad students!
I found this an easy-to-read introduction to epigenetics. However, a basic knowledge of fundamental biochemistry is recommended to get the most out of this book.
Published 2 months ago by R. J. McBride
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Gift to daughter-in-law _ she is delighted and using the cleaner regularly.
Published 2 months ago by Randi Lien Evans
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, if a little tough going in places ....
Fascinating insight into genetics and how mapping the genome was just the beginning. Explains how identical twins are not as identical as they may appear and why male tortoiseshell... Read more
Published 3 months ago by SunnyB
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
A very clear explanation of the current state of knowledge in Epigenetics. It reads like a thriller. Now so many things make more sense in medicine and biology!
Published 4 months ago by Tomas R. Galvão
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting
Epigenetics is a fascinating area of study and further discoveries will have far reaching consequences for mankind. An informative introduction.
Published 4 months ago by Mrs. S. M. Dolan
5.0 out of 5 stars The New Biology
An excellent introduction to the new biology where the modifications to DNA and their effects on gene expression are discussed in detail.
Published 5 months ago by John Basford
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