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From the gene that causes people to age prematurely to the "bitter gene" that may spawn broccoli haters, this book explores a few of the more exotic locales on the human genome, highlighting some of the tragic and bizarre ways our bodies go wrong when genes fall prey to mutation and the curious ways in which genes have evolved for our survival.
Lisa Seachrist Chiu offers here a smorgasbord of stories about
rare and not so rare genetic quirks - the gene that makes some people smell like a fish, the Black Urine Gene, the Werewolf Gene, the Calico Cat Gene. We read about the Dracula Gene, a mutation in zebra fish that causes blood cells to explode on contact with light, and suites of genes that also influence behavior and physical characteristics. The Tangier Island Gene, first discovered after physicians discovered a boy with orange tonsils (scientists now realize that the child's odd condition comes from an inability to process cholesterol). And Wilson's Disease, a gene defect that fails to clear copper from the body, which can trigger schizophrenia and other neurological symptoms, and can be fatal if left untreated. On the plus side, we read about the Myostatin gene, a mutation which allows muscles to become much larger than usual and enhances strength - indeed, the mutations have produced beefier cows and at least one stronger human. And there is also the much-envied Cheeseburger Gene, which allows a lucky few to eat virtually anything they want and remain razor thin. While fascinating us with stories of genetic peculiarities, Chiu also manages to explain much cutting-edge research in modern genetics, resulting in a book that is both informative and entertaining. It is a must read for everyone who loves popular science or is curious about the human body.
"This book can be strongly recommended to anyone, of any age, who is looking for an authoritative yet entertaining account of modern genetics. Lisa Seachrist Chiu is also the perfect guide to help readers make greater sense of the onrush of discoveries which they encounter day after day through the media." -- Bernard Dixon, Biologist
"In telling these stories, the author explains how genetic information controls human traits."--Science News
"One of the joys of Chiu's catalog of genetic oddities is that you can flip through it and imagine yourself endowed with abilities conferred by one of these tiny molecules: the ACE gene, which increases endurance, and the Schwartzenegger gene, which boosts muscle mass, would make you into a heck of an athlete, for example. Another joy is that, in reading, you learn that these are not really oddities at all, but changes in common cellular machinery shared by us all.... Chiu tells these tales not as a genetic Ripley's Believe It or Not