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07.05.2016
Wolpert, professor emeritus of biology at University College London (Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast), conceives bodies as complex societies of cells, with each individual cell and cell type fulfilling a very specific role.
Lewis Wolpert is Professor Emeritus of Biology as Applied to Medicine at University College, London. Enabling JavaScript in your browser will allow you to experience all the features of our site.
They are the basis of all life in the universe, from the tiniest bacteria to the most complex animals. The author reviews cell replication and protein synthesis and describes the behavior of nerve, muscle, immune and other body cells.
His books include Six Impossible Things before Breakfast, How We Live and Why We Die, and Malignant Sadness, the basis for a BBC television series.
In the tradition of the classic Lives of a Cell, but with the benefit of the latest research, internationally acclaimed embryologist Lewis Wolpert demonstrates how human life derives from a single cell and then grows into a body, an incredibly complex society made up of billions of them.


Unfortunately, there is not a single photo, diagram or schematic of a basic cell, nor of cell division (mitosis) and the more complex chromosome-halving reduction division that gives rise to sperms and eggs (meiosis). When we age, our cells cannot repair the damage they have undergone; when we get ill, it is because cells are so damaged they stop working and die.
In focusing on the process of human development, he marvels at how a single cell, a fertilized egg, can grow into a complex organism. Wolpert begins historically with the 17th-century discoveries of cells by Robert Hooke and Anton van Leeuwenhoek, which laid the groundwork for the cell theories of Theodor Schwann and Rudolph Virchow two centuries later. Then it's on to the nitty-gritty of what cells do: consume food, generate energy, make proteins, replicate (or not), grow old and die (or not, in the case of cancer and stem cells).
Lively and passionate, this is an accessible guide to understanding the human body and life itself. His range is so great that he has little time to delve beneath the surface of any of the subjects he raises, making this a cursory introduction for the novice in basic cell biology and its implications.


The dense procession of facts slows the narrative pace and may leave nonspecialist readers confused. The author devotes later chapters to what can go wrong with cells-infection, an overactive immune system, chronic diseases like cancer and the wear and tear of aging, which limits cell repair and replication.
Wolpert stoutly defends science-based medicine, condemning alternative and complementary "energy" approaches, including acupuncture.
Despite a somewhathelpful glossary, lay readers would be better served by a generously illustrated textbook.



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