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The Epigenetics Revolution: How Modern Biology Is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease and Inheritance

4.08  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,430 Ratings  ·  137 Reviews
Nessa Carey presents a compelling story of the most important revolution in modern biology - and what it could mean for humanity. She concludes by investigating the amazing possibilities for the improvement of humankind that epigenetics offers for the surprisingly near future.
Paperback, 339 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by Icon Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Nolan White Definitely, yes. Epigenetics is a subset of genetics that helps readers to understand that our genome is more than the sum of our atoms. Behavior…moreDefinitely, yes. Epigenetics is a subset of genetics that helps readers to understand that our genome is more than the sum of our atoms. Behavior genetics is determined in part by things that happened to our ancestors, then passed on to us but not through egg or sperm via epi (on top of) genetics. How strange and yet marvelous is this discovery. It helps explain who we are as humans.(less)
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Since the Watson-Crick model of our double helical structure DNA in 1953 and the foundations of the central dogma of molecular biology (DNA-RNA-protein) were established, major advances in genetics have taken place. In the year 2003, the Human Genome Project finished an accurate and complete sequence of the human genome which became available to scientists and researchers (and for you if you wish) to download at the NHGRI page. Knowledge of the complete sequence allows the identification of all
Mar 04, 2014 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nessa Carey is an active researcher, and an excellent writer. She explains cogently why there certainly is a "revolution" occurring now in genetics, and gives us a very good introductory guide to the subject of epigenetics. There is much more to genetic inheritance than simply the "DNA" that is found in our cells. Carey shows many examples of epigenetics at work. One very basic example is the fact that despite every cell nucleus having "identical" DNA, our cells specialize for each organ in the ...more
Brian Clegg
Oct 15, 2011 Brian Clegg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There have been lots of popular science books about genetics and evolution, and that's fine - but there really hasn't been anywhere near enough coverage of epigenetics, which is why Nessa Carey's book is so welcome. Over the last 30 years or so it has become increasingly obvious that the idea of genes coding for proteins - the basic concept of genetics - is only a starting point for the way DNA acts to provide control software for the body's development. There is also RNA that is coded by 'junk' ...more
Feb 12, 2015 Hadrian rated it really liked it
A useful and interesting introduction to a field I admittedly know very little about. Look elsewhere for more technical details about the book itself. It was easy enough for me to read, and I was able to move from basic models of DNA to knowing what on earth 'DNA methylation' is without major issues.

The book largely abstains from the broad and sweeping pronouncements of many other pop-sci books, claiming that this new discovery will instead completely overturn the past orthodoxy forever and that
Feb 11, 2016 Robert rated it really liked it
DNA --> mRNA --> proteins --> you understand life! Well, it was never that simple but now it's not even an accurate description of all the functions of DNA. Genes exist in binary "off or on" states. Wrong! Many genes effectively have dimmer switches that allow a continuous spectrum of activation from fully off to some maximum rate of expression. 98% of our DNA is "junk." Wrong! Only 2% codes for proteins but various parts of the rest are now understood to serve several functions, from a ...more
Majd Abdulghani

Reading this book was a mind-blowing journey.
What I love most about it is that although it delves deep into specifics, all it requires is a basic understanding of cell biology. The author builds her way up from the basics to the tiniest details. Even better, every time something from a previous chapter is mentioned, she explains it in brief again so that the reader doesn't have to go back to that chapter in order to remember what she's talking about.
All this makes it easy to pick up The Epig
Jun 26, 2013 Nikki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Epigenetics has been a fascinating idea for me for years. I must've been about sixteen or seventeen, and there was a program on it on TV. And until the marks of my biology AS level came back, I was determined to become a geneticist and work on this kind of thing. Then I got a B in biology but shocked my teachers by getting full marks on more than one module of English Lit (a thing they didn't think possible for one module, let alone three), so my fate was sealed. But the interest remained.

So, un
Aug 27, 2014 Sushil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even though the title of the book contains the word 'epigenetics', this was just the book I needed to read to make me understand how genetics itself truly works. We've all heard of the grandest molecule of all - the double helix of DNA. We all talk about genes, chromosomes and even stem cells. But I would guess that most biologically-lay people have little inkling of how genes result into fully formed bodies. We are told that DNA is to a body what a blue-print is to a building. Well, after readi ...more
Jan 29, 2013 Ashleigh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2012, 2013
Clear and concise, this book hit just the spot I wanted it to. It was a welcome book in the sense that though, at times, it felt a little swamped with names and terms (which I think if taking your time to read (which I did) it's easy to keep on top of) it was a relatively 'uncluttered' book; most scientific terms had an analogy to link them to or something similar which made them much easier to understand.

The actual topic of epigenetics is absolutely fascinating. It can explain such diverse phen
Rob Adey
Not a proper review as I didn't read the whole thing.

This is a weird pop science book. Carey includes some very basic and unnecessary analogies based of the 'imagine RNA is Baz Luhrmann's shooting script for Romeo and Juliet' etc. that seem to be pitched at readers who, I'm pretty sure, aren't that likely to be picking up a book with 'epigenetics' in the title. But then there's a bunch of descriptions of epigenetic effects featuring complicated cascades of gene names and so on, after a few of w
Peter Mcloughlin
The Human Genome project completed in 2000 was only an opening salvo for biology and medicine. Sequencing human DNA is like figuring out the script of a Shakespeare play. The script is a major part of the play but it is big step from script to actual production. DNA is the script and the interplay of DNA, the organism and the environment is the full on production on stage. This part of Biology is called epigenetics which takes the script of DNA and plays it out on the stage of the organism and ...more
Jun 10, 2013 Roger rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be an enjoyable book, written in an engaging style which draws the reader into each chapter. It contains a lot of information, some quite detailed. Although I'm a scientist by profession, this was a new area for me and reading this work has taught me a lot about epigenetics and its importance in the functioning of life. Much of the material was very thought provoking and eye-opening.

Each chapter covers a different area of epigenetics and starts off with a simple introduction to t
Bastian Greshake
Sep 16, 2011 Bastian Greshake rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The book gives a solid overview over the early history of Epigenetics as well as the known mechanisms, like histone modification and DNA methylation. The phenomenon of Genomic Imprinting also gets its fair share.

Additionally many of the experiments that established our current knowledge on Epigenetics are described, as well as the potential medical applications. Biologists that are already kinda firm with the general topic may not learn that much new stuff, but I discovered some great experimen
Feb 27, 2016 Gill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book very interesting, although, as a non-specialist, I found quite large parts of it difficult to understand.

it's a few years now since this book was published. Well it's five years actually, but I think within the field that it's describing that's an immensely long time. I'd be interested to find out what progress has been made between then and 2016. Maybe following this up in a scientific magazine would be the best way to do it? Unless anybody knows of a book that they can rec
Charlene Lewis- Estornell
Carey provides a clear and easy to understand explanation of how epigenetics works and how it is forcing us to rewrite the theory of evolution, giving the environment a larger role and the gene itself a smaller one.

Essential for anyone who wants to keep up to date with the theory of evolution.
Paul R. Fleischman
This book is interesting and notably competent science writing. The proper audience for this book is someone with specific interests in genetics, and biology.
The word, “epigenetics” refers to all those ways in which influences are imposed on the genetic codes in DNA in our cells. Unfortunately, as Nessa Carey reminds us on page, 101, the word has been used in many different ways, and therefore a book on epigenetics ends up resembling a book called, “Many Topics About Genetics and Biology.” On
Oct 25, 2013 Duncan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Given that very cell in our body contains exactly the same DNA, how is it possible that so many of our tissues are highly specialised to perform totally different functions?

The answer is epigenetics, which is the study of how the same DNA can be expressed in different ways. Sections of DNA can be switched on or off. They can have their 'volume' turned up or down.

To clarify this phenomenon, the author draws an analogy from theatre. The Royal Shakespeare Company would produce a classical performa
Mar 31, 2013 Stevedutch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a brilliantly written book, full of fascinating insights into both, the processes of scientific endeavour, and those of life. It is, inescapably, full of molecular formulae, other diagrams and the jargon of science. Nevertheless, it will be accessible to the interested and persistent lay person who will have revealed before them the amazing story of how the genetic plan for the unfolding of our lives can be dramatically modified by forces external to ourselves, some within our control bu ...more
Carl Gettleman
Feb 19, 2015 Carl Gettleman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Epigenetics refers to the intracellular control mechanisms that switch gene expression on or off. Carey's book explains a dimension of genetics that goes well beyond the superficial notions of how DNA sequences determine the genotype and phenotype of an organism and delves into the dynamic processes of DNA methylation, acetylation, and histone modification. While it is a fascinating, if difficult read, it shows us how much work is ahead of us in understanding how cells differentiate, how sex-lin ...more
Mick Kelly
Dec 03, 2015 Mick Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good and important book. Although it is slightly too old to include the latest on gene editing and gene drive, this is a great book for getting the background on epigenetics.

I'm constantly amazed with science - not so much as to what it achieves but for the questions it asks - I always wonder why I don't ask these questions. In this case, the important question is - 'If all cells carry the same DNA - how come a liver cell is different from a skin cell or a bone cell or....'

Once you ask that,
Jurij Fedorov
First half is great and informative. Second half is only informative for people who already know a lot about different genetic mechanisms and their names.

A lot of interesting ideas and science. There is a lot to epigenetics that you probably don't know about and it's one of the most interesting scientific fields to follow in our age as new great discoveries are made every year. The main message from this book is: food can change how some specific genes are activated/deactivated. And this eff
Nov 28, 2014 Rossdavidh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black
This book was a great introduction to a complicated topic. What does the term "epigenetics"? It's not your DNA, exactly, and it can change over the span of your life. But, you can inherit epigenetic changes from your parents, or even grandparents. Epigenetics could be called Lamarck's Last Laugh, but really it's a term for how the functioning of DNA is way more complex than "DNA = book of life" would indicate.

It's not easy to move from molecular-level descriptions of how DNA gets modified to pop
Nov 10, 2014 McKenzie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, evolution, 4-50
Why your grandparents matter more than you already knew.

Epigenetics is the exciting scientific approach that bridges the nurture/ nature debate by saying that these two processes long thought to be in conflict with one another are actually interrelated. Carey gives us this already well developed, and often overlooked field a thorough historical basis, sets out present findings and outlines hopes for our tomorrows.

The NIH "Roadmap Epigenomics Project," ongoing as of 2013, uses the following def
Angus Mcfarlane
This book left me oscillating between fascination and zone-out, the former where the subtle effects of Epigenetics and the significant implications are well explained, the latter when gene-alphabet soup swamps my mediocre understanding of biology.

Epigenetics twists the traditional view of darwinian evolution in an interesting direction. No longer can phenotype differences be attributed to either genetics or environment, rather, there are many that are be the combination of both. Perhaps this is
Icon Books
Nov 17, 2011 Icon Books rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
'A book to make Darwin swoon - anyone seriously interested in who we are and how we function should read this.' --The Guardian

"Fascinating stuff."
--The Bookseller, 10 June 2011

Just over a decade since Matt Ridley's seminal Genome, Nessa Carey presents a hugely compelling explanation of the very latest from the frontline of modern biology. How is it that, despite each cell in your body carrying exactly the same DNA, you don't have teeth growing out of your eyeballs or toenails on your liver? How
Deniz Cem Önduygu
An exciting first half containing a nice summary of the pre-epigenetics view of genetics and a suspenseful presentation of epigenetics, followed by a boring second half full of technical and redundant examples where your efforts to follow dozens of abbreviations (gene/protein/RNA/enzyme names) don't pay off because they usually end with "We're not sure this is correct" or "We don't exactly know whether/how this affects that pathway/phenotype/disease".

I appreciate the author's expertise and her
Fernando del Alamo
Dec 19, 2014 Fernando del Alamo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
"La revolución epigenética" es el título de este libro en castellano. En él, la autora nos explica que no sólo tiene importancia la genética en la vida, sino que la epigenética, o sea (intento definirla desde la total ignorancia sobre eltema), el que ciertos genes estén activos o no, es fundamental. Esa es la razón por la que los gemelos univitelinos no son exactamente iguales, pues la epigenética depende de multitud de factores.

Explica unas cuantas historias muy buenas y muchas curiosidades, co
Feb 17, 2014 Ed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We here so much about genetics and DNA it is refreshing to hear about something related that throws new light on this subject. Moreover, it is new light that suggests mechanisms that what happens in our lives can in fact by passed on via epigenetic mechanisms to our children. The experience of the Dutch Hunger winter on pregnant women has effects on obesity and health that have been tracked via the excellent Dutch health care system down through three generations and this serves as a starting po ...more
A fascinating subject. And the author worked very hard to make it approachable. Metaphors, examples, diagrams, revisiting prior subjects and adding complexities. Which is presumably why some of the material only required three re-reads to maybe get and hold what was being presented. I think I walked away with a better understanding of the subject, but I'm really not positive. Certainly the last epigenetics I was exposed to, at an OMSI science pub talk, seemed to be more focused on junk dna - and ...more
Aug 10, 2015 Laura rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this read. I wish I could give it 3.5 stars.

I will say that I would have enjoyed it even more if I had a science background. I started reading this book because I have always had an interest in epigenetics (though I've never formally studied it). I hoped that this book would give me a broad overview of the most interesting findings from epigenetics studies, and many chapters did just that. Other chapters went so deep into the technical explanation behind some of the scientific
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“Our brains contain one hundred billion nerve cells (neurons). Each neuron makes links with ten thousand other neurons to form an incredible three dimensional grid. This grid therefore contains a thousand trillion connections - that's 1,000,000,000,000,000 (a quadrillion). It's hard to imagine this, so let's visualise each connection as a disc that's 1mm thick. Stack up the quadrillion discs on top of each other and they will reach the sun (which is ninety-three million miles from the earth) and back, three times over.” 6 likes
“But DNA isn’t really like that. It’s more like a script. Think of Romeo and Juliet, for example. In 1936 George Cukor directed Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer in a film version. Sixty years later Baz Luhrmann directed Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in another movie version of this play. Both productions used Shakespeare’s script, yet the two movies are entirely different. Identical starting points, different outcomes.” 3 likes
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