How Modern Biology Is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease, and Inheritance

by Nessa Carey

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Epigenetics can potentially revolutionize our understanding of the structure and behavior of biological life on Earth. It explains why mapping an organism’s genetic code is not enough to determine how it develops or acts and shows how nurture combines with nature to engineer biological diversity. Surveying the twenty-year history of the field while also highlighting its latest findings and innovations, this volume provides a readily understandable introduction to the foundations of epigenetics.

Nessa Carey, a leading epigenetics researcher, connects the field’s arguments to such diverse phenomena as how ants and queen bees control their colonies; why tortoiseshell cats are always female; why some plants need cold weather before they can flower; and how our bodies age and develop disease. Reaching beyond biology, epigenetics now informs work on drug addiction, the long-term effects of famine, and the physical and psychological consequences of childhood trauma. Carey concludes with a discussion of the future directions for this research and its ability to improve human health and well-being.


“Anyone seriously interested in who we are and how we function should read this book.” — Peter Forbes, The Guardian

“Nessa Carey takes us on a lively and up-to-date tour of what’s known about epigenetic mechanisms and their implications for ageing and cancer.” — Laurence Hurst, Focus MagazineUniversity of Bath

“[Nessa Carey’s] book combines an easy style with a textbook’s thoroughness…. A bold attempt to bring epigenetics to a wide audience.” — Jonathan Weitzman, Nature

“Carey’s report on the rapidly developing state of epigenetics research may help nonscientists with public-policy, investment, and health-care decisions.” — Booklist

“An exhilarating exploration of an exciting new field, and a good gift for a bright biology student looking for a career choice.” — Kirkus Reviews

“An enlightening introduction to what scientists have learned in the past decade about [epigenetics].” — Carl Zimmer, The Wall Street Journal

“This book provides an excellent introduction to a fascinating new field that may revolutionize our understanding of human health and disease. Highly recommended.” — Library Journal

“A must-read for every intelligent person who likes to know what is going on in modern science.” — Graham Storrs, New York Journal of Books

“[Carey] provides an excellent and largely accurate account of a fascinating and fast-moving area of modern biology.” — Jonathan Hodgkin, Times Literary Supplement

“Written in an engaging manner using everyday metaphors to clarify complex concepts and utilizing well–defined diagrams, the author has produced an outstanding book with her wit and expertise.” — Rita Hoots, NSTA Recommends (National Science Teachers Association)

“[A] mercifully clear writer.” — Katharine Whittemore, The Boston Globe



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