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Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the meaning of life

Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the meaning of life [Kindle Edition]

Nick Lane
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Challenging, but rewarding. Vanessa Thorpe, Observer Its the most interesting and significant addendum to Darwin's theory I think I've come across since Richard Dawkins explained how genes are the mechanism for evolution. Independent on Sunday, An enthralling account...The author has accomplished something quite breathtaking... Moreover, he brings the science alive...he is always accessible lively , thought provoking and informative. Every Biologist should read this book


Mitochondria are tiny structures located inside our cells that carry out the essential task of producing energy for the cell. They are found in all complex living things, and in that sense, they are fundamental for driving complex life on the planet. But there is much more to them than that. Mitochondria have their own DNA, with their own small collection of genes, separate from those in the cell nucleus. It is thought that they were once bacteria living independent lives. Their
enslavement within the larger cell was a turning point in the evolution of life, enabling the development of complex organisms and, closely related, the origin of two sexes. Unlike the DNA in the nucleus, mitochondrial DNA is passed down exclusively (or almost exclusively) via the female line. That's
why it has been used by some researchers to trace human ancestry daughter-to-mother, to 'Mitochondrial Eve'. Mitochondria give us important information about our evolutionary history. And that's not all. Mitochondrial genes mutate much faster than those in the nucleus because of the free radicals produced in their energy-generating role. This high mutation rate lies behind our ageing and certain congenital diseases. The latest research suggests that mitochondria play a key role in degenerative
diseases such as cancer, through their involvement in precipitating cell suicide.

Mitochondria, then, are pivotal in power, sex, and suicide. In this fascinating and thought-provoking book, Nick Lane brings together the latest research findings in this exciting field to show how our growing understanding of mitochondria is shedding light on how complex life evolved, why sex arose (why don't we just bud?), and why we age and die. This understanding is of fundamental importance, both in understanding how we and all other complex life came to be, but also in order to be able to
control our own illnesses, and delay our degeneration and death.

'An extraordinary account of groundbreaking modern science... The book abounds with interesting and important ideas.'
Mark Ridley, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford


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2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Von et
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
Spannend, fundiert, kompetent und trotzdem unaufdringlich erklärt Nick Lane dem Leser alle relevanten Aspekte des Lebens einer Zelle und eines Mehrzellers - wie z.B. uns Menschen. Er nutzt dabei jenen - vielleicht nur im amerikanischen möglichen - Plauderton, der es dem Leser ermöglicht, viel Stoff wie ein Schüler aufzunehmen, ohne sich dabei dumm vorzukommen.

In klarer Gliederung führt er den Leser durch die zentralen Fragen der Zellbiologie, immer verständlich, immer fokussiert, und trotzdem nie langweilig. Warum haben wir Sex? Was ist der Nutzen eines so aufwendigen Verfahrens, dass es vom Einzeller über die Pflanzen bis zu den Primaten immer wieder genutzt wird? Warum sterben Zellen? Wo kommt die Energie des Lebens her?

Im Vorbeigehen werden so auch gleich noch einige Fragen z.B. zu Diabetes und anderen gängigen Krankheiten geklärt, welche die meisten Mediziner ratlos lässt.

Das Buch ist im Original (englisch) für jeden gut lesbar, der das übliche Schulenglisch gelernt hat und normalerweise in der Lage ist, ein englisches Computergame in Betrieb zu nehmen oder eine englische Webseite zu lesen.

Ein lehrreiches, unterhaltsames Buch über Zellen, Sex, das Leben und den ganzen Rest. Kann ich uneingeschränkt empfehlen.
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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.7 von 5 Sternen  78 Rezensionen
96 von 97 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen The Penultimate Roots Trip - Eukaryotes, How We Got Here and How We Work 14. Dezember 2005
Von Edward F. Strasser - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
After the origin of life, the next big step on the way to us was the origin of eukaryotes. These are all the organisms - including people, trees, mushrooms, and slime molds - who package most of our DNA into chromosomes in cell nuclei. Mitochondria, the "powerhouses" of eukaryotes, are descended from bacteria which took to living in a very close relationship with another type of one-celled organism; in fact they came to live inside the other. Nick Lane argues that this merger must have preceded the formation of the nuclear membrane. Hence "Penultimate Roots Trip".

Lane starts with a brief section on the origin of life, in order to present necessary information about how organisms get usable energy. This strongly supports his claim that something like a mitochondrion is necessary for life to become more complex than bacteria. After that he describes how formerly free-living bacteria could have evolved into the vastly stripped-down mitochondria. Then he builds up a picture of how that partnership led to the complexities of modern organisms. And I really do mean "builds". Each chapter draws on material from earlier chapters, and the picture becomes more complex as you go on. Fortunately, there are frequent recaps of the material you're about to need.

Marvelously, he manages to tell this story in mostly plain English. A little bit of technical language is unavoidable, but I am confident that it will not be a problem for anyone who wasn't already scared off by the word "mitochondrion" in the subtitle.

In addition to power, sex, and suicide, the book also discusses aging. Lane presents his ideas on why current attempts to slow aging don't seem to be working and gives some suggestions for research he finds more promising. This is the culmination of the book and I hope it provokes a lot of thought in readers at all levels of technical knowledge.

[Original review 14 Dec 2005; "powerhouse" comment added 25 Jan 2006.]
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Potentially life changing 12. Januar 2006
Von Superannuated student - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Few to no equations, not all that many figures, terminology introduced as needed, yet... this book is demanding. It has the capacity to put the reader through the proverbial wringer. It is slow going, not because it is per se difficult to read, but because it brings forth many questions and much thought. When I finish it, I will need to read it again.

It might be worth buying a copy for everyone in the local high school's biology course, in hopes that 2 or 3 people would read it, then be inspired and motivated to study hard toward real science.

How can one not be excited by the quest for a Last Universal Common Ancestor, whether there be one or more? How can one not be fascinated by a reprise on mitochondria, which in (even a very good) high school biology course 36 years ago were too glibly termed "the powerhouse of the cell" (but did we really know much more than this about them)? We now have specific and wonderous mechanisms of energetics, a possibility of discernable origins and history, and a convincing argument for a fundamental and perhaps unique point of departure from the all-microscopic and limited prokaryotic world, toward eukaryotes and rich and complex life.

Lane presents his opinions and speculation in addition to settled science, but these are clearly and responsibly identified. In several instances, opposing views are noted in sufficient detail to allow one to investigate another side of the argument. A Further Reading bibliography cites original journal papers.
19 von 19 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen The mighty mitochondria 10. Mai 2007
Von Paul A. Martin - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
Nick Lane tops his previous effort ("Oxygen") in gathering the myriad threads of biological science around a unifiying topic. By writing about all complex life forms from the point of view of their embedded mitochondria he answers open questions (and poses some novel ones) about the rise of complex organisms, the underpinnings of sexual reproduction and programmed cell death, and even our odds of encountering extraterrestial intelligence.

My only quibble is that each chapter seems to have been written for serialized publication -- there is too much summary of past chapters at the start of each.

A great read, for an audience spanning a wide range of previous biology studies.
13 von 13 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen One of the best books I've ever read 22. November 2006
Von John - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
As another reviewer stated, this really is a life-changing book. I read it after taking a course in biochemistry and it had even more impact on me in tying a lot of fascinating concepts together.

The most amazing thing about this book is how influential mitochondria are on our lives and subsequently how little we (you!) know about them. They're why we(eukaryotes AND warm-blooded animals)'re here, why we're large, why bacteria can't become like us, why we have gender, why we have sex and why we die. Fascinating stuff--definitely a book you should buy (especially considering the title is quite a conversation starter too).
21 von 24 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen at the crux of biology and evolution 2. Februar 2006
Von Gaunilon - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
This is the first accessible book that describes the crucial steps, on a cellular level, that allowed for advanced life forms. It also provides insights on sex and death. His book on Oxygen was remarkable, this more so. Worth a patient read, it is profound, with subject matter not addressed elsewhere.
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the origin of complex cells is inseparable from the origin of the mitochondria: &quote;
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all mitochondria have retained a small quota of their own genes, which are usually passed on to the next generation only in the egg cell, not in the &quote;
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The genome is the full library of genes possessed by an organism, &quote;
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