Glowing Genes: A Revolution in Biotechnology / Edition 1

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Marc Zimmer has written the first popular science book on an amazing new area of biotechnology that will help fight cancer, create new products, improve agriculture, and combat terrorism. For more than one hundred and sixty million years, green fluorescent protein has existed in one species of jellyfish. In 1994 it was cloned, giving rise to a host of useful and potentially revolutionary applications in biotechnology. Today researchers are using this ancient glowing protein to pursue exciting new discoveries, from tracking the process of bacterial infection to detecting chemical and biological agents planted by terrorists.
A recognized expert in this field, Zimmer begins with an overview of the many uses of these glowing genes to kill and image cancer cells, monitor bacterial infections, and light up in the presence of pollution. He then discusses the biological reasons that glowing proteins first evolved in jellyfish and fireflies, and looks at the history of bioluminescence and the dedicated scientists who devoted their careers to explaining this phenomenon. The story of how "glowing genes" were located, cloned, and then mass-produced is in itself a fascinating tale.
Zimmer next turns to the serious, and not-so-serious, uses of fluorescent proteins. In agriculture it may soon be possible to produce crops that signal dryness by glowing. In industry a red fluorescent protein originally found in corals may find a use in sheep as a substitute for environmentally harmful wool dyes.
Furthermore, the glowing gene revolution has led to significantly more humane treatment of laboratory animals. No longer must animal lives be sacrificed to understand disease processes; now researchers can observe the spread of cancer and infections by treating animals with green fluorescent genes and similar proteins.
In the fight against terrorism a glowing gene has been created that lights up in the presence of anthrax spores, chemical warfare agents, and landmines. And in a completely different arena, we have already seen the emergence of "transgenic art" in Alba, the fluorescent bunny rabbit.
Glowing Genes is a highly informative, fascinating, and entertaining read about a burgeoning area of biotechnology that promises soon to revolutionize our world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Green fluorescent pigment (GFP), made naturally by jellyfish, has recently sparked a biological revolution. "GFP is a fantastically useful protein" because it can monitor and track other proteins "inside a living organism, without disrupting any molecular processes." As Connecticut College chemist Zimmer shows, scientists have cloned the gene for GFP and attached it to other genes in a wide array of organisms, from rabbits to monkeys and fish. When these other genes are turned on, GFP is produced and individual cells begin to glow. The diagnostic uses for this technique are critically important and varied. GFP may help with the early diagnosis of cancer, with tracking the spread of pathogenic bacteria and may provide a relatively quick and easy assay for anthrax, among other exciting uses. Additionally, GFP has already helped scientists better understand developmental processes in organisms, which may lead to cures for such diseases as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. While Zimmer is moderately successful in presenting the excitement associated with these breakthroughs, his clumsy prose often gets in the way of his message. His transitions between topics are so obtuse that much of his text reads like a series of extended digressions. Zimmer is at his best when explaining basic biology and chemistry; as his subject gets more complex, his explanations become more difficult to follow. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591022534
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 2/25/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 250
  • Sales rank: 996,168
  • Product dimensions: 6.28 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

Marc Zimmer, Ph.D., is the Christian A. Johnson Distinguished Teaching Professor and professor of chemistry at Connecticut College. His research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, and he has published more than fifty scientific papers, mainly on the topic of bioluminescence.

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Table of Contents

1 Living light 15
2 From Pliny's walking stick to burning angles 27
3 Using fireflies to look for life on Mars? 39
4 Shimomura's "squeezate" 51
5 Where is the GFP recipe? : let's photocopy it 69
6 The birth of the green fluorescent protein revolution 77
7 Thirsty potatoes and green blood 91
8 Alba, the fluorescent rabbit 107
9 Light in a can 113
10 Red sheep from Russia 123
11 ANDi the green monkey and a yellow pig 133
12 Cameleons, FLIP, FRET, FRAP, and camgaroos 145
13 Cancer 157
14 Glowing genes in medicine 169
15 Defense, security, and bioterrorism 185
16 Last light 193
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