Life Itself

Life Itself : Exploring the Realm of the Living Cell

4.02 (38 ratings by Goodreads)
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In Life Itself, Boyce Rensberger, science writer for The Washington Post, takes readers to the frontlines of cell research with some of the brightest investigators in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology. Virtually all the hottest topics in biomedical research are covered here, such as how do cells and their minute components move? How do the body's cells heal wounds? What is cancer? Why do cells die? And what is the nature of life? Readers discover that - contrary to what we may have concluded from pictures in our high school textbooks - cells teem with activity and that, inside, they "are more crowded with components than the inside of a computer." We learn that scientists now know of at least ten molecular motors that move things about inside the cell - in most cells, this motion is short because the cell is tiny, but in the single-celled nerve fibers that run from the base of the spinal cord to the toes (measuring three or four feet in an adult human), transported molecules can take several days to make the trip. Rensberger describes the many fascinating kinds of cells found in the body, from "neural crest cells" (early in embryonic development, these cells crawl all over the embryo to the sites where they will pursue their fate - as nerve cells, or cartilage, or skin), to "dust cells" (nomadic cells in the lung that swallow and store indigestible particles, then migrate to the gullet where they themselves are swallowed and digested), to "natural killer cells" (millions of which roam the body looking for cancerous cells). We meet many of the scientists who have pioneered cell research, such as Rita Levi-Montalcini - an Italian who, shut out of her lab during World War II,continued to experiment in her bedroom at home, making the discovery ("nerve growth factor") for which she won the Nobel Prize - and American Leonard Hayflick, who discovered that all human cells (except cancer cells) invariably die after about fifty divisions. Rensberger also prshow more

Product details

  • Hardback | 301 pages
  • 170.18 x 246.38 x 25.4mm | 566.99g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 16 halftones, 36 line figures, bibliography
  • 0195108744
  • 9780195108743

Table of contents

Chapter 1 - A Particle of Life. Chapter 2 - Molecular Motors. Chapter 3 - Animation. Chapter 4 - The Living-Room Cell. Chapter 5 - How Genes Work. Chapter 6 - One Life Becomes Two. Chapter 7 - Two lives Become One. Chapter 8 - Constructing a Person. Chapter 9 - Pumping Protein. Chapter 10 - Heal Thyself. Chapter 11 - In Self-Defense. Chapter 12 - Revolution. Chapter 13 - The Immortality Withinshow more

About Boyce Rensberger

About the Author: Boyce Rensberger is Science Writer for The Washington Post, and creator of The Post's acclaimed educational supplement, "Horizon: The Learning Section."show more

Review Text

Boldly borrowing the title of one of the best books by Francis Crick, the science writer of the Washington Post has written a very different book, about the workings of the cell. This leads him into discussions of cancer, genetics, reproduction and development, packing an enormous amount of information into a relatively small volume. It is unfortunate that the illustrations do not provide more support for the densely packed text but, although by no means a light read, Life Itself is still a rewarding one for anyone seriously interested in the way the human body works. (Kirkus UK)show more

Rating details

38 ratings
4.02 out of 5 stars
5 24% (9)
4 61% (23)
3 13% (5)
2 0% (0)
1 3% (1)
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