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Herding Hemingway's Cats

Understanding How Our Genes Work

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


The language of genes has become common parlance. We know they make your eyes blue, your hair curly or your nose straight. The media tells us that our genes control the risk of cancer, heart disease, alcoholism or Alzheimer's. The cost of DNA sequencing has plummeted from billions of pounds to a few hundred, and gene-based advances in medicine hold huge promise.

So we've all heard of genes, but how do they actually work?

There are 2.2 metres of DNA inside every one of your cells, encoding roughly 20,000 genes. These are the 'recipes' that tell our cells how to make the building blocks of life, along with myriad control switches ensuring they're turned on and off at the right time and in the right place. But rather than a static string of genetic code, this is a dynamic, writhing biological library. Figuring out how it all works – how your genes build your body – is a major challenge for researchers around the world. And what they're discovering is that far from genes being a fixed, deterministic blueprint, things are much more random and wobbly than anyone expected.

Drawing on stories ranging from six toed cats and stickleback hips to Mickey Mouse mice and zombie genes – told by researchers working at the cutting edge of genetics – Kat Arney explores the mysteries in our genomes with clarity, flair and wit, creating a companion reader to the book of life itself.

From Publishers Weekly

11 January 2016 – Writing in a breezy, irreverent style, Arney, a science journalist specializing in genetics, explores what is known about the inner workings of the genome. Her results are both fascinating and surprising. As Arney demonstrates, scientists have uncovered a huge amount since the 1953 discovery of DNA's double helix structure. Scientists can now read DNA sequences easily and quickly, they understand that much of the "junk" DNA in our cells probably plays a role in controlling the functioning of our genes, and they have come to grips with the fact that pieces of DNA occasionally "jump" around the genome. But Arney also points out that much remains unknown. At the most basic level, it is no longer clear that scientists have a meaningful or concise definition of a gene, and the nature of gene regulation has turned out to be far more complex than most originally thought. Arney interviews a host of scientists at the cutting edge of genetics and provides insight into their experiments, as well as into the scientific enterprise. She dismantles some of the commonly accepted wisdom about epigenetics and discusses how some traits might be passed from parent to offspring without the direct involvement of DNA. Both specialists and general readers will find much to savor in Arney's excellent work.
Herding Hemingway's Cats
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  • £9.49
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Life Sciences
  • Published: 14 January 2016
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
  • Print Length: 288 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.5 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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