Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Interesting book based on E. Coli

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Fascinating review of Microcosm: E. Coli and the New Science of Life. The review begins:

I come face-to-face with Escherichia coli every day. In a sense, we all do–as billions of E. coli inhabit every individual’s intestines. But for me, E. coli is a protein factory. I’m a structural biologist, and my work depends on being able to produce large amounts of specific proteins–generally proteins found in humans or mice. However, purifying large amounts of these proteins from humans or mice would be virtually impossible, and manipulating these proteins in the manner I need for my studies would be literally impossible. Instead, all I have to do is introduce a small piece of engineered DNA into a single E. coli bacterium–just one cell–and in less than 24 hours, I’ll have billions of E. coli bending to my will and producing milligrams of my protein of interest on demand.

This only works because, as Nobel laureate Jacques Monod once quipped, “What is true for E. coli is true for the elephant.” E. coli. along with all other forms of life share the same basic cellular machinery and the same genetic code, so a piece of DNA from one species will be read in exactly the same way (with a few caveats) in another species. It is because of this truism that scientists have been able to develop E. coli into a successful biotechnological tool and a model system for studying the basis of life. It is also from this truism that Carl Zimmer–accomplished science writer and blogger at The Loom–takes the name of the second chapter of his latest book, Microcosm.

In Microcosm, E. coli becomes much more than just a biotechnological tool, but a conduit for exploring the fundamentals of evolution, biological networks, cooperation, human health and disease, bioethics, our relationship with nature, and–of course–life itself. The so often unexamined life (at least for someone like me) of E. coli comes alive, and the reader discovers that–as so many microbiologists already have–E. coli is interesting in its own right. E. coli has many stories to tell, and Zimmer communicates them in his usual interesting, informative, and very readable manner. …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2008 at 8:32 am

Posted in Books, Science

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