The Secret of Life: Redesigning the Living World

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9780716733119: The Secret of Life: Redesigning the Living World

DNA's power is global - it has orchestrated the history of life on earth for three and a half billion years. Yet its touch is intimate - it determines your chances of getting cancer, the amount of cholesterol in your father's blood, and the color of your daughter's eyes. Over the past three decades, advances in our knowledge of DNA have transformed our understanding of the living world and reached into every corner of biological research. Already the rewards of this new biology have been extraordinary - genetically engineered crops, a deeper understanding of evolutionary theory, and nearly every advance in the struggle against AIDS. But molecular biology, through abilities that draw us ever closer to "playing God" with DNA, also raises awesome ethical and moral questions that didn't exist a half-century ago. The Secret of Life takes both the newly curious and the seasoned biology reader on a guided tour of this ongoing scientific revolution and its impact on our daily lives. Biologist and science writer Joe Levine and geneticist David Suzuki reveal how scientists' ability to crack and manipulate the genetic code - learning which genes do what and how - is transforming medicine, especially the treatment of inherited diseases. They show us how this knowledge is leading to experimental treatments such as gene therapy - molecular surgery with the power to cure and alter the next generation. They introduce us to the brave new world of "designer" plants and transgenic animals like Tracy (a ewe whose genetically altered mammary glands secrete valuable proteins into her milk), and to the controversies over altering these living creatures for human benefit. And they examine the contentious fieldof human behavioral genetics, asking whether it is reasonable to suggest that genes can fine-tune subtle aspects of personality and be linked to complex conditions such as alcoholism and schizophrenia. Through tales of scientific discovery, personal case studies, engaging histor

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From Publishers Weekly:

The impact of advances in molecular biology on our daily lives is the theme of this stunningly illustrated companion to a PBS series. Biologist Levine and geneticist Suzuki (the series' host) scan the frustrating search for vaccines to combat AIDS and take readers inside the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta where researchers are devising strategies to "teach" the immune system to ward off viruses. The authors also scrutinize attempts to isolate genes implicated in cancer and examine medical and commercial applications spawned by biotechnology, with its attendant ethical dilemmas and potential environmental hazards. Looking to the future, they detail the potential of gene therapy as a tool to correct genetic defects, to "enhance" normal characteristics or to cure hereditary diseases. This volume, which stands on its own as a scholarly survey, concludes with an impartial review of the controversy over whether specific genes can make people smart, shy, criminal, alcoholic, manic-depressive or homosexual.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist:

In a companion volume to an upcoming PBS television series produced by WGBH in Boston, this book approaches the so-called "molecular revolution" as a phenomenon to be reckoned with. Unscientific-minded readers should find the eight-chapter format (paralleling the eight-part documentary's itinerary) to be informative and illuminating with regard to molecular biology as a basic concept. This highly readable text often adopts engaging analogies to convert scientific lingo to more understandable ideas, and the transformative possibilities of today's research--into genetic engineering, viral infections, cancer, and other deadly diseases--become an exciting reality because of the accessible writing. Alice Joyce

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