Books : reviews

Jamie A. Davies.
Mechanisms of Morphogenesis.
Elsevier. 2005

How is biological form created? How does an embryo use its genetic developmental program to cause its tissues to change shape? How do molecular machines cooperate to make structures that are much larger than themselves? How do embryos cope with random noise and unpredictability when making an accurate body plan? These are amongst the great questions that still lie at the heart of biology. A recent focus of effort in this area, from a loose coalition of advanced cell biologists, theoretical biologists, bioinformaticians and complex-system physicists, is beginning to yield answers.

This book presents an exciting and up to the minute account of the very latest research into the mechanisms that create biological form. Drawing on a combination of theory and experimental results, it illustrates how embryos use a combination of self-assembly, feedback and adaptive self-organization to drive the morphogenesis of structures ranging from the sub-cellular through cells to large tissues. Taking the general genetic programme of the embryo for granted, the book focuses on the ways in which this programme can be translated to generate cell shape, to direct cell migration, and finally to produce the shape and form of solid tissues and dictate their rates of tissue growth. Each topic is illustrated with experimental data from real systems, with particular reference to gaps in current knowledge and pointers to future research.

Jamie A. Davies.
Life Unfolding: how the human body creates itself.
OUP. 2014

How is it possible that all the complexity of a living human being – a brain of billions of neurons, the filigree-work of blood capillaries, the solidity of bones, the fully functioning system of energy acquisition, self-maintenance, and repair – can arise from a single fertilized egg?

This book presents the emerging picture of how the human body makes itself, for self-organization is the key. Drawing on cutting edge science, Jamie A. Davies takes us step by step through the processes that together build a human body. The resulting story, of simple rules budding exquisite complexity, is proving to be more extraordinary then we could ever have imagined.