How does life begin? What drives a newly fertilized egg to keep dividing and growing until it becomes 40 trillion cells, a greater number than stars in the galaxy? How do these cells know how to make a human, from lips to heart to toes? How does your body build itself?
Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz was pregnant at 42 when a routine genetic test came back with that dreaded word: abnormal. A quarter of sampled cells contained abnormalities and she was warned her baby had an increased risk of being miscarried or born with birth defects. Six months later she gave birth to a healthy baby boy and her research on mice embryos went on to prove that – as she had suspected – the embryo has an amazing and previously unknown ability to correct abnormal cells at an early stage of its development.
The Dance of Life will take you inside the incredible world of life just as it begins and reveal the wonder of the earliest and most profound moments in how we become human. Through Magda's trailblazing research as a professor at Cambridge – where she has doubled the survival time of human embryos in the laboratory, and made the first artificial embryo-like structures from stem cells – you'll discover how early life is programmed to repair and organise itself, what this means for the future of pregnancy, and how we might one day solve IVF disorders, prevent miscarriages and learn more about the dance of life as it starts to take shape.
The Dance of Life is a moving celebration of the balletic beauty of life's beginnings.
Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz runs a laboratory in the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, having moved to Cambridge 22 years ago from Poland. Today she leads a team of 17 postdoctoral scientists and graduate students. She has published more than 117 papers, lectured all over the world and received numerous awards and honours.
Roger Highfield is an author, broadcaster and director of external affairs at the Science Museum Group in London and Visiting Professor of Public Engagement at Oxford University. He has popularised a broad sweep of research through his work for the Science Museum and his previous roles as editor of New Scientist and science editor of the Daily Telegraph, and has written or co-authored seven popular science books.
"One of the World's Top 10 Thinkers of 2020"
"Quite simply the best book about science and life that I have ever read"
– Alice Roberts
"How an entire human can emerge from a single cell is one of the great mysteries of life. This book is a wonderful exposition of that amazingly complicated process, and combines Zernicka-Goetz's research and expert perspective with the clear and engaging narrative that is a hallmark of Highfield's science writing"
– Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society and Nobel-prize winning scientist
"A touching, detailed portrait of a life in science. Beautifully written, it's a reminder that scientists are human and their humanity affects every part of their work"
– Angela Saini, bestselling author of Inferior and Superior
"How does a single fertilised egg know how to develop into the trillions of different cells that making up a human? This book provides you with much more than the answer – it is story-telling at its very best. Together with Highfield, Zernicka-Goetz leads us through her life scientific, intertwining the exciting field of 21st biology with a joyous personal journey of discovery at the cutting edge of research"
– Jim Al-Khalili