Power, Sex, Suicide Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life

ISBN-10: 0199205647

ISBN-13: 9780199205646

Edition: 2006

Authors: Nick Lane

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Mitochondria are tiny structures located inside our cells that carry out the essential task of producing energy for the cell. They are found in all complex living things, and in that sense, they are fundamental for driving complex life on the planet. But there is much more to them than that. Mitochondria have their own DNA, with their own small collection of genes, separate from those in the cell nucleus. It is thought that they were once bacteria living independent lives. Theirenslavement within the larger cell was a turning point in the evolution of life, enabling the development of complex organisms and, closely related, the origin of two sexes. Unlike the DNA in the nucleus, mitochondrial DNA is passed down exclusively (or almost exclusively) via the female line. That'swhy it has been used by some researchers to trace human ancestry daughter-to-mother, to 'Mitochondrial Eve'. Mitochondria give us important information about our evolutionary history. And that's not all. Mitochondrial genes mutate much faster than those in the nucleus because of the free radicals produced in their energy-generating role. This high mutation rate lies behind our ageing and certain congenital diseases. The latest research suggests that mitochondria play a key role in degenerativediseases such as cancer, through their involvement in precipitating cell suicide.Mitochondria, then, are pivotal in power, sex, and suicide. In this fascinating and thought-provoking book, Nick Lane brings together the latest research findings in this exciting field to show how our growing understanding of mitochondria is shedding light on how complex life evolved, why sex arose (why don't we just bud?), and why we age and die. This understanding is of fundamental importance, both in understanding how we and all other complex life came to be, but also in order to be able tocontrol our own illnesses, and delay our degeneration and death.'An extraordinary account of groundbreaking modern science... The book abounds with interesting and important ideas.'Mark Ridley, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford
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Book details

List price: $17.95
Copyright year: 2006
Publisher: Oxford University Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 12/11/2006
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 368
Size: 5.25" wide x 7.75" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 1.012
Language: English

List of Illustrations
Introduction Mitochondria: Clandestine Rulers of the World
Hopeful Monster: The Origin of the Eukaryotic Cell
The Deepest Evolutionary Chasm
Quest for a Progenitor
The Hydrogen Hypothesis
The Vital Force: Proton Power and the Origin of Life
The Meaning of Respiration
Proton Power
The Origin of Life
Insider Deal: The Foundations of Complexity
Why Bacteria are Simple
Why Mitochondria Make Complexity Possible
Power Laws: Size and the Ramp of Ascending Complexity
The Power Laws of Biology
The Warm-Blooded Revolution
Murder or Suicide: The Troubled Birth of the Individual
Conflict in the Body
Foundations of the Individual
Battle of the Sexes: Human Pre-History and the Nature of Gender
The Asymmetry of Sex
What Human Pre-history Says About the Sexes
Why There Are Two Sexes
Clock of Life: Why Mitochondria Kill us in the End
The Mitochondrial Theory of Ageing
Demise of the Self-Correcting Machine
A Cure for Old Age?
Further Reading
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