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4.0 von 5 Sternen A Brief Summary and Review
*A full executive summary of this book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on Tuesday, December 3, 2013.

Ever since the structure of DNA was deciphered by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953, the field of biology has advanced at mach speed. In this time, we have learned how DNA codes for the manufacture of proteins of which every living thing is...
Vor 13 Monaten von A. D. Thibeault veröffentlicht

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1 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Wonderland
The book is written by likely the most prominent, successful and surely the most visible figure in molecular genetics of our time. High expectations are fully justified. Does he deliver?
Yes and no. Dr. Venter focuses on roughly the last decade of research when his journey as scientist and entrepreneur of science took him to unveil the secrets of life and to create...
Vor 12 Monaten von Dr. Peter Lanzer veröffentlicht


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4.0 von 5 Sternen A Brief Summary and Review, 26. November 2013
*A full executive summary of this book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on Tuesday, December 3, 2013.

Ever since the structure of DNA was deciphered by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953, the field of biology has advanced at mach speed. In this time, we have learned how DNA codes for the manufacture of proteins of which every living thing is made, and thus acts as the blueprint of life. We have also learned to read this blueprint; to splice it (to transfer genes, and hence features, from one organism to another—and even one species to another); to synthesize it from its component parts; and we have even learned to rewrite DNA to yield wholly new biological products, features and organisms. Thus recent advances have not only allowed us to gain a better understanding of what life is and how it works, but have also allowed us to take control of life and to manipulate it to help advance our ends—and in fields as wide-ranging as food production, medicine, energy, environmental protection etc. And this is just the beginning, for biologists still have much to learn about which genes code for what features, and how to manipulate DNA to achieve the best results—and thus we can be confident that some of the greatest applications to come out of biology are yet to come.

The biologist J. Craig Venter has been at forefront of biological research for the past 35 years, and has played a pivotal role in some of its most important advances (including everything from sequencing the human genome, to creating the first synthetic life form), and in his new book Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life, Venter takes us through the major advances that have occurred since the time of Watson and Crick—and also touches on what is likely to come next.

After taking us through the basics of DNA, Venter touches on the advances that led up to his effort to sequence the entire 3-billion-letter human genome. This story includes all of the major advances in biologists’ ability to read DNA, and culminates with the success of the human genome project.

From here we are taken through biologists’ efforts to move from reading DNA to synthesizing it in the lab. Once again, Venter and his collaborators have played a central role in these advances, including being responsible for the latest and greatest accomplishment here—which involved synthesizing a modified version of the genome of an organism, booting it up inside a recipient cell, and having it survive, thrive and reproduce. Venter gives a detailed account of this accomplishment, and thus we are given an inside view into the scientific process—with all its trials, tribulations, and glorious successes.

Finally, Venter details where biology is headed now, and next—including where his own research is taking him. Here we learn about the cutting-edge of synthetic biology, which is the attempt to transform biology into an engineering science. Specifically, we learn how biologists are continuing to perfect the art of manipulating DNA, and how this is leading to exciting new applications across many fields. To give just one example, take Venter’s work with influenza vaccines. Venter is in the process of using synthetic biology to design, manufacture, and deliver influenza vaccines in a fraction of the time that it now takes—work that promises to save millions of lives in the event of future influenza outbreaks.

On the more speculative side of things, Venter ventures into how new advances might be used to probe for life in other parts of the universe—and how the genomes of any such life might be read, and sent back to earth on the back of electromagnetic waves to be synthesized and recreated in the lab. Life at the speed of light indeed!

It is a delight to read about the recent history and latest advances in biology from one of its most accomplished and renowned practitioners. Some might find Venter’s level of detail regarding his own work to be somewhat tedious at times, but I found this to be one of the strong points of the book. The only short-coming of the book, I thought, is that it does jump around somewhat, and the details are occasionally difficult to follow (so be prepared to read through it VERY carefully). All in all, though, a very good popular science book. A full executive summary of the book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on Tuesday, December 3; a podcast discussion of the book will be available shortly thereafter.
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3.0 von 5 Sternen Wonderland, 13. Dezember 2013
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Dr. Peter Lanzer "PL" (Deutschland) - Alle meine Rezensionen ansehen
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The book is written by likely the most prominent, successful and surely the most visible figure in molecular genetics of our time. High expectations are fully justified. Does he deliver?
Yes and no. Dr. Venter focuses on roughly the last decade of research when his journey as scientist and entrepreneur of science took him to unveil the secrets of life and to create life (of a cell) on his own. What came out of it, is 190 pages long mostly self-acclamatory monolog on molecular genetics a la JCV. The book is filled with numerous interesting and occasionally unduly details of that troublesome journey to recreate functioning genom of a cell (Mycomplasma mycoides). What a feat. Yet, the non-insider reader gets relatively little information about the key steps to this unprecedented success; except that the extreme drive is critical part of the recepy. Perhaps the real genius of JCV has been (and still is) his realization of potentials of IT technology to explore genetics. This apparently extremely powerful and highly successful strategy termed whole genome shotgun sequencing is mentioned on several occasions in the book but nowhere explained. The reader would be interested to know how it is possible for a computer to reassemble DNA chopped up into fragments (oligomers) back into flawless DNA chains beating all the statistical odds on the way; perhaps even more interested than in finding out all about the watermarks imprinted into the recreated M. mycoides genome. Reader would also be interested to find out about the state of the art of that sort of research beyond the boundaries of JCV’s labs. Who are the major competitors? Do alternative approaches, other than linear sequencing exists? She or he learns about International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition instead; interesting, popular but certainly not the cutting edge. Perhaps the text could do well with some simple drawings to improve readability particularly in long passages on coding.
Remarkable JCV does not address the potential limitations of synthetic life due to epigenetics. Particularly over the decade he covers it has become clear that phylogenetic expression of genomes is anything but straightforward. Numerous genes have been shown to cause no disease, mild or severe disease or entirely different disease in different individuals. While this could be less of a problem in unicellular organisms it could become a limiting problem in combating human disease.
Along with this critical omission the discussion of ethics and synthetic life misses the point. It is not question of democratic voting on the issue – apparently many parties do not express major concerns – it is about the fact of enabling men to make simple living substrates whatever men pleases them to be; responsibility hardly anyone can shoulder. While creating simple living forms can become relatively simple in the future it may become much more difficult to harness human diseases by synthetic genetics alone. Consequently, the risk of abuse of simple living forms for whatever reasons could become substantially greater than any benefits derived from their capacity to fight disease. Similar to the atomic energy vs. atomic bomb dilemma, only the future may tell. Only, in the former case the answer may come in much faster.
To get a picture about the state of the art of molecular (synthetic) genetics a different book needs to written. Something a la Judson’s The eighth day of creation.
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0 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen der Craig Venter wieder..., 28. Oktober 2014
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Da preacht er mal wieder, der Papst der Genomik! Alles ist Information! Wir haben künstliches Leben erschaffen! Und gescheitert sind wir nie, das waren alles tolle Ideen -- auch das als Metagenomik getarnte Weltumsegeln! Ja ja, schon gut, glauben wir, glauben wir ja schon. :-)

Von diesen Selbstbeweihräucherungen abgesehen ist das Buch aber sehr lesenswert. Wobei man schon reichlich Ahnung von aktueller Biologie (insbesondere Genomik) haben sollte. Venter setzt sehr viel voraus, erklärt keine Grundlagen, hüpft gleich in medias res.

Ich fand die Genome Wars aber noch spaßiger.
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0 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
1.0 von 5 Sternen Digital Life?, 17. Dezember 2013
Are cellular organisms only robot-like computing machines that function strictly according their algorithm-based programming? Or are they rather coordinated complex entities that share non-mechanistic properties that may vary according different context specific needs? Is DNA the unequivocal syntax for sequences out of which one can construct living cells, viruses, phages for a household appliance? Or is the superficial molecular syntax of DNA solely the result of evolution long inserts and deletions of an abundance of various genetic parasites that shape host genomes? The most crucial questions are: do DNA sequences contain a hidden deep grammar structure that vary according to the meaning and context of environmental insults; do DNA sequences match with high fidelity environmental circumstances that led to epigenetic markings and memory? This would mean the identical DNA sequence may have various - even contradictory - meanings. Venter's perspective does not meet any of these questions and therfore remains superficial
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