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41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An empowering book
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...
Published on 27 Oct 2011 by J. Chapman

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating to read.
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...
Published 7 months ago by Mike


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Introduction to the world of epigentics, 16 Dec 2012
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As a non science person getting interested in biomedicine while working in a non science capacity in a company in this sector I found this book fascinating.
This book introduces and develops in some depth the work done by scientists in understanding the epigentic code around DNA or in other words how dna expresses itself in diferent ways and in different kinds of cells.
The author is able to transmit complex scientific ideas in a way that lets the lay reader get to grips with the latest ideas in this field without a degree in biology. She also quite clearly has a vast knowledge of epigentics and a desire to share her enthusiasm with others who are interested.
It is not an easy read but nor is it a tough read. You need to engage the brain but one feels encouraged to do so. I would recommend it to anyone who wants a starting knowledge of epigentics.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Epigenetics Revolution, 14 Dec 2012
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This is an absolutely brilliant book. As an A Level student with a keen interest in genetics I found it a perfect book to expand my reading beyond that of the A Level syllabus.

I really love how this is written, it's not patronising and there's dry humour thrown in for good measure. It was engaging and informative. The subject matter - epigenetics - could be a very boring topic, but Carey introduces it in a captivating way and a way that even someone with very little prior knowledge could understand. I appreciate that she doesn't shy away from the nitty-gritty, hardcore science but instead explains it in a manageable, "bite sized" way.

It's brilliant to expand any a-level biology knowledge for either someone who wants to take it further, or someone who is just interested in science.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epigenetics will become a key to improving human health and lifestyle, 27 Nov 2012
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EPIGENETICS will become a key to improving human health and lifestyle

What I read in Nessa Carey's book has fundamentally improved my understanding of the relevance and importance of epigenetics to human health and lifestyle in words that will be readily understood. She is very careful to define every technical term she uses in advance, so no prior knowledge of the subject is necessary.

What is very clear and important, is that this book has brought us up to date and able to begin applying epigenetic discoveries to our own lifestyles without having to wait another 50 years for it to be understood and incorporated into best practice for the benefit of ourselves and our offspring. Doctors I have met have never heard of epigenetics.

On Monday 8 October 2012 Sir John Gurdon FRS was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology for his research at Oxford in the 1950s where he demonstrated results of his experiments in his first paper published in 1962, that every cell of a body carries all the genes necessary for creating an entire individual.

It took a further ten years before others accepted the results which indicated that specialised cells such as brain cells for example, had not lost any genes they no longer required but had switched them off. This discovery is consistent with Conrad Waddington's epigenetic landscape which he presented in 1957 to exemplify developmental biology concepts although he does not discuss details of the mechanisms involved. This introduced the realisation that any cell could be reset using genetic switches to become a pluripotent stem cell capable of re-developing as a specialised tissue.

The concept of epigenetics grew from these early and fundamental discoveries to become the revolutionary topic that it currently now is and provides the ability to interact (both positively and negatively) in our own lifetime and control the expression of our own genome inherited from our fore-bearers (Nessa Carey, 2012). This enables us all to switch on good genes and switch off bad genes in our own lifetime with a view to improving our own longevity, health and ultimately our happiness and also those of our offspring.

As with any revolutionary topic, it takes significant time for such concepts to become more widely accepted and understood, take root and become a significant component of current professional, scientific and technical practice. The realisation that it has taken fifty years for the impact of John Gurdon's initial revolutionary work to be recognised and rewarded with a Nobel Prize is itself indicative of this systemic delay in the publicising and implementation of new discoveries with global implications for all living organisms.

Reference
Nessa Carey, The Epigenetics Revolution - How Modern Biology is Rewriting our Understanding of Genetics, Disease and Inheritance, iconbooks.co.uk., 2012. 339 pages.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book, 17 Oct 2011
This review is from: The Epigenetics Revolution: How Modern Biology is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease and Inheritance (Hardcover)
Outstanding and engaging insight into this fascinating topic. Nessa has done a great job in describing this intriguing area of science in such a way to make it understandable by anyone with an inquisitive nature.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The New Biology, 1 May 2014
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An excellent introduction to the new biology where the modifications to DNA and their effects on gene expression are discussed in detail.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good, though technical read, 16 Feb 2014
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This will be a worthwhile read if you have a health science background. If not, prepare to skip over whole sections as the technicalities tie you up in knots.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epigenetics: phenomenology and molecular underpinning, 8 Nov 2013
By 
Serghiou Const (Nicosia, Cyprus) - See all my reviews
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The book is masterly in its treatment of this young, exciting, and profoundly significant field of biological research. The author's writing is clear, substantive, vivid, acutely insightful in matters relating to evolution, witty while her frequent use of analogy exemplary. In the course of the book, the author revisits topics in varying contexts but far from this being repetitious on the contrary it refreshes and embeds concepts in the mind of the reader and enhances its interconnection. Another positive element in the book is that on several instances there is a pictorial illustration of the issue raised by the author so that the reader has the benefit to visually follow the sequence of events on the issue raised. I have, however, to warn the prospective reader that the preceding notwithstanding the book is intrinsically not an easy read due to its conceptual richness, the multiplicity, subtlety, intricate sequence of interactions and the complexity of the epigenetic code - especially as related to histone modifications as opposed to DNA methylation - much of it presently understood only in broad outline.

Until the turn of the century DNA was viewed as a blueprint or a template but since then there was a paradigm shift and we now correctly view it as a script and as such identical starting points may lead to different outcomes. It is possible without change in DNA (mutation) for life histories to be changed irrevocably in response to the environment through epigenetic changes in our genome.

We infer that a phenomenon is likely to be influenced by epigenetic alterations in DNA and its accompanying proteins if one or both of the following are met: two things are genetically identical, but phenotypically variable; an organism continues to be influenced by an event long after the initiating event has occurred.

Since all phenotypic variation has a physical basis, we can define epigenetics at the molecular level as the set of modifications to our genetic material that change the ways of gene expression - switch on, switch off, or some intermediate stage - but which does not alter our genome which we can transmit in all its purity to our descendants.

The above also solved the mystery that only 2 per cent of our genome codes for proteins while 98 per cent does not code for proteins but as we now realize codes for something else which is connected with regulating gene expression through epigenetic mechanisms. We have similarly come to the realization that the complexity of living organisms scales much better with the percentage that does not code for proteins than it does with the number of base pairs coding for proteins. Further it has been argued that the difference between humans and our chimpanzee relatives may well be due to a special class of ncRNA (non coding RNA) which has an immense capacity of editing itself.

Evolution seems to have solved the problem of creating more complex and sophisticated organisms by altering the regulation of the organisms than altering the proteins themselves. And this is exactly what has been achieved by using complicated networks of ncRNAs molecules to influence how, when and to what degree specific proteins are expressed.

I shall now reconnect to an earlier part of the review to present epigenetics in action both when two individuals are genetically identical but phenotypically different and when individuals continue to be influenced by an event long after the initiating event has occurred.

The scientific term for identical twins is monozygotic (MZ)twins. They were both derived from the same single-cell zygote formed from the fusion of one egg and one sperm. (MZ) twins allow us to explore mathematically the link between the sequences of our genes (genotype) and what we are like (phenotype). In genetically identical monozygotic twins, the concordance for schizophrenia does not reach 100 per cent but is only 50 per cent.

The Dutch Hunger Winter lasted from the start of November 1944 to the late spring of 1945. The effects of the famine on the birth weights of children who had been in the womb during that terrible period were: if a mother was well-fed around the time of conception and malnourished only for the last few months few months of the pregnancy, her baby was likely to be small. If, on the other hand, the mother suffered malnutrition for the first three moths of the pregnancy, but then was well fed, she was likely to have a baby with a normal body weight. But then came the really surprising:babies who were born small tended to stay small all their lives - even though they were properly nourished - with lower obesity rates than the general population. Even more unexpectedly, the children whose mothers had been malnourished only early in pregnancy, had higher obesity rates than normal. And the truly stunning, some of these effects seem to be present in the children of this group, that is the grandchildren of women who were malnourished during the first three months of their pregnancy. Something suggesting Lamarckian inheritance and this is indeed what happened and has a name 'transgenerational inheritance'. But I want to reassure the reader because in the overwhelming number of cases, Darwinian evolution prevails.

A child, less than three years old, is abused and neglected by his parents but subsequently is treated normally. Often such children who suffered from abuse or neglect in their early years have substantially higher risk as adults of mental health problems than the general population. All too often the child grows up into an adult at high risk of depression, self harm, alcohol and drug abuse, and suicide.

We shall now turn our attention to the epigenetic modifications at the molecular level which influence gene and protein expression. The epigenetic regulation of gene expression occurs through different cells having the same DNA blueprint but carrying molecular modifications which can be transmitted from mother cell to daughter cell during somatic cell division.

We shall examine in some detail DNA methylation and histone modifications.

DNA methylation: Cytosine is the only one of the four DNA bases that gets methylated, to form 5-methylcytosine through one of three enzymes called DNA methyltransferases. The DNMTs are examples of epigenetic 'writers' - enzymes that create the epigenetic code. Most of the time these enzymes will only add a methyl group to a C (Cytosine) that is followed by G (Guanine). C followed by G is known as CpG. The chemical group is 'stuck onto' DNA but does not alter the underlying genetic sequence. DNA methylation has profound effects on how genes are expressed and ultimately on cellular, tissue and whole-body functions. CpG pairs are concentrated in the promoter region. Promoters are the stretches of the genome where transcription complexes bind and start copying DNA to form RNA. Regions where there is a high concentration of CpG motifs are called CpG islands. When genes are active, the levels of methylation in the CpG islands is low. The CpG islands tend to be highly methylated only when the genes are switched off.

DNA methylation is clearly really important. Defects in reading DNA methylation can lead to a complex and devastating neurological disorder that leaves children with Rett syndrome severely disabled throughout their lives. DNA methylation is also important for maintaining the correct patterns of gene expression in different cell types, either for several decades in the case of our long-lived neurons or in all daughters of a stem cell in a tissue that is constantly replaced such as skin.

Histone modifications: More than fifty different epigenetic histone modifications have been identified. These modifications all alter gene expression but not always in the same way. Some histone modifications push gene expression up, others drive it down. The pattern of modifications is referred to as a histone code and is extraordinarily difficult to read. This complexity contrasts with the fairly all-or-nothing effect of DNA methylation.

As to why organisms evoved such complex patterns of histone modifications to regulate gene expression, the author offers an elegant explanation. She argues that complexity likely allows sophisticated fine-tuning of gene expression. Because of this, cells and organisms can adapt their gene expression appropriately in response to changes in their environment.

I find it fitting to conclude the review with an apt comment of the author: In biology Darwin and Mendel came to define the 19th century as the era of evolution and genetics; Watson and Crick defined the 20th century as the era of DNA, and the functional understanding of how genetics and evolution interact. But in the 21st century it is the new scientific discipline of epigenetics that is unraveling so much of what we took as dogma and rebuilding it in an infinitely more varied, more complex and even more beautiful fashion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book on an important new subject, 17 Jun 2013
By 
Alistair Kelman "Ali Kelman" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Dr Nessa Carey makes a valiant effort in making a very difficult subject intelligible to the lay reader. She succeeds very well in portraying epigenetics in their historic context and in shining a light upon the early researchers in this field. She succeeds also in explaining matters using analogies with literature. But I am not giving her five stars because, in the end, the complexity of the scientific language of epigenetics overwhelms the subject in her exposition. I personally don't know how she could overcome this barrier - maybe more analogies. Nevertheless I strongly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the topic - it appears to be the best one out there at the moment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, 8 April 2013
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An excellent book for biologists and non-biologists. Can not recommend it enough for anyone interested in biology and just wanting to know what all the fuss is about. Clearly, Nessa carey knows her subject and also how to transfer that knowledge to her audience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rivetting, mind boggling science, 7 April 2013
By 
M. Hillmann "miles" (leicester, england) - See all my reviews
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This is not an easy book, but is so stimulating it keeps you reading. It helps to have a background in biology. But if you are interested, Nessa Carey advances revolutionary ideas, in a deeply scientific yet comprehendable way.
When the human genome project finished sequencing human DNA at the beginning of the century it seemed as though we had the fundamental material on which to ground our genetic understanding. But only 2% of the DNA is responsible for making the building blocks of the embryo. Is the rest of the DNA really junk or are there other things going on?
If identical twins have identical genetic make up and genes are the only factor affecting development, how can the twins develop differently as they get older?
If genes are immutable how can environmental changes have long term biological consequences? Audrey Hepburn's mother was pregnant in Holland during the great Dutch famine of 1944-45. Audrey Hepburn was affected throughout life by stunted growth and poor health. But more than that, not only did offspring of mothers starved in early pregnancy suffer from a tendency to obesity as they inherited the compensation mechanism for starvation, but so did the grandchildren. Clearly an environmental change with biological consequences can be passed on down the generations.
Epigenetics holds the answer. Whenever two genetically identical individuals are non-identical in some way - this is epigenetics. When a change in environment has biological consequences that last long after the event itself we are seeing an epigenetic effect in action. Cells read the genetic code in DNA more like a script that needs interpretation. Epigenetics controls the switching on an off of genes as it interpretes the script.
Nessa Carey delves deep into the mechanism. At fertilisation the zygote is a single cell resulting from the fusion of one egg and one sperm. As various cells of the body begin to differentiate each cell becomes specialised. Once it is specialised you cannot easily unspecialise it. However Nessa Carey vividly tells the story of how Professor Yamanaka did just that. He developed a technique to switch off genes. Incidentally she also vividly describes the intense competition between research scientists and often vicious attacks on each other.
Epigenetics depends upon the ability for genes to be switched on and switched off. Nessa describes in great detail how methylation of DNA and histone action causes genes to be switched on or switched off. It is mesmerising to learn about the science even if I cannot remember it!
The excitement involved in the potential of gene therapy and the development of epigenetic drugs to treat cancer is infectious. Epigenetics may be controversial in the scientific community. It makes for a very stimulating if heavy book.
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