Books  Animal & General Biology  Biochemistry & Molecular Biology 

Life Unfolding: How The Human Body Creates Itself

  • Provides a unique conceptual framework, using the principle of adaptive self-organization to explain how a simple egg becomes a complex body
  • An account of an exciting new area of research, outlining both the controversies and the gaps in our understanding
  • Written in a clear and accessible way bringing together principles from physics and control theory, as well as embryology and physiology
  • Considers how we can use this new knowledge for future medical techniques

By: Jamie A Davies(Author)

336 pages, 86 b/w illustrations

Oxford University Press

Paperback | Oct 2015 | #222643 | ISBN-13: 9780199673544
Availability: Usually dispatched within 48 hours
NHBS Price: £10.99 $14/€12 approx
Hardback | Feb 2014 | #208515 | ISBN-13: 9780199673537
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £19.99 $26/€22 approx

About this book

Where did I come from? Why do I have two arms but just one head? How is my left leg the same size as my right one? Why are the fingerprints of identical twins not identical? How did my brain learn to learn? Why must I die?

Questions like these remain biology's deepest and most ancient challenges. They force us to confront a fundamental biological problem: how can something as large and complex as a human body organize itself from the simplicity of a fertilized egg? A convergence of ideas from embryology, genetics, physics, networks, and control theory has begun to provide real answers. Based on the central principle of 'adaptive self-organization', it explains how the interactions of many cells, and of the tiny molecular machines that run them, can organize tissue structures vastly larger than themselves, correcting errors as they go along and creating new layers of complexity where there were none before.

Life Unfolding tells the story of human development from egg to adult, from this perspective, showing how our whole understanding of how we come to be has been transformed in recent years. Highlighting how embryological knowledge is being used to understand why bodies age and fail, Jamie A. Davies explores the profound and fascinating impacts of our newfound knowledge.

Watch introduction by the author below:


"A demanding but wonder-filled account of the simple interactions that create complex structures."
New Scientist


Ethical Statement

1: Confronting an alien technology
2: From one cell to many
3: Making a difference
4: Laying down a body plan
5: Beginning a brain
6: Long division
7: Fateful conversations
8: Great migrations
9: Plumbing
10: Organizing organs
11: Taking up arms
12: The Y and how
13: Wired
14: Dying to be human
15: Making your mind up
16: A sense of proportion
17: Making friends and facing enemies
18: Maintenance mode
19: Perspectives

Further reading

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Since 1995, Jamie A. Davies has run his own laboratory at the University of Edinburgh, with a multi-disciplinary focus on discovering how mammalian organs construct themselves and how we can use this knowledge to build new tissues and organs for those in need. He has published around 90 research papers in the field of mammalian development, published a major specialist monograph (Mechanisms of Morphogenesis, Associated Press, 2005), and edited three multi-author books in the fields of development, stem cells, and tissue engineering. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Biologists, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, and a Fellow of the HIgher Education Academy. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the journal Organogenesis.

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