THE LANGUAGE OF LIFE: How Cells Communicate in Health and Disease

Debra Niehoff, Author, Debra Niehoff, Author
Debra Niehoff, Author, Debra Niehoff, Author . National Academies/Joseph Henry $27.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-309-08989-0
Reviewed on: 03/28/2005
Release date: 05/01/2005

Cell communication takes place in all organisms, from the simplest single-celled bacterium to humans, mediated through an array of chemicals. Using human language as a metaphor, science writer Niehoff (The Biology of Violence ) takes us on a whirlwind tour, discussing how chemical communication is responsible for turning a fertilized egg into a complex, fully differentiated adult; how the human immune system is called into action to fight infection; and how homeostatic mechanisms protect us as we negotiate an environmentally unstable world but make it extremely difficult to lose significant amounts of weight. Niehoff also explores the host of medical possibilities, from curing cancer to effectively controlling diabetes, as scientists begin to fully understand the language of cells. Throughout, Niehoff mixes personal anecdotes with scientific explanation. Those anecdotes, however, distract more than enlighten—the only shortcoming of this otherwise thoroughly enjoyable book. B&w illus. Agent, Regula Noetzli. (On sale May 24)