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Book Review Author: Gregory C. Gibson Last Updated: Sep 7, 2017 - 10:11:17 PM

It Takes a Genome: How a Clash Between Our Genes and Modern Life is Making Us Sick

By Gregory C. Gibson
May 10, 2009 - 7:27:21 AM

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New Book from FT Press Reveals the True Nature of the Human Genome in

Time for the 200th Birthday Anniversary of Charles Darwin

( - New York, NY--Human beings have astonishing genetic vulnerabilities. More than half of us will die from complex diseases that trace directly to those vulnerabilities, and the modern world we've created places us at unprecedented risk from them. The human genome is experiencing “genetic culture shock.”

In It Takes a Genome: How a Clash Between Our Genes and Modern Life is Making Us Sick (FT Press Science, ISBN-13: 9780137137466, $24.99, 208 pages, February 2009), Dr. Greg Gibson, pioneer in the emerging science of genomics, presents a revolutionary new hypothesis: our genome is out of equilibrium, both with itself and its environment. Simply put, our genes and our cultures are not at peace. This book explains the latest results emerging from the Human Genome Project, an international 13-year effort formally begun in October 1990 that determined the compete sequence of the 3 billion DNA subunits (bases) in the human genome. Now the project has expanded to explain the functions of all human genes, as well as the variation in them, that makes us different. It Takes a Genome places those results in the context of modern life.

“Our bodies were never designed to feed off of fat and sugary foods; our immune systems weren't designed for today's clean, bland environments; our minds weren't designed to process hard-edged, artificial electronic inputs from dawn 'til midnight. And that's why so many of us suffer from chronic diseases that barely touched our ancestors,” says Dr. Gibson.

Selected insights from It Takes a Genome chapters include:

Chapter 1- “The Adolescent Genome” explains how genes are for the most part extraordinarily interactive and cooperative entities-Every single gene comes in a variety of flavors, and whether you are shorter, more or less prone to diabetes, or better at shooting a basketball than the other guy is influenced by the flavors you get with dozens if not hundreds of genes.

Chapter 2- “Breast Cancer’s Broken Genes” concentrates on breast cancer. Cancers take multiple mutations to get started, and each of us inherits a set of mutations whose effects are veiled by the rest of the healthy genome, only to exert their effects as other mutations accumulate. They’re really not Cancer genes, in the sense that there are not genes whose role it is to promote cancer: when normal genes break they lead to cancer.

Chapter 7- “The Alzheimer’s Generation” There’s plenty of evolutionary theory about conflicts between genes that are good for us when we’re young but turn against us as we age, or about genes not caring as much about keeping us alive after we’ve raised offspring. However, some of us are predisposed genetically to decay mentally at an accelerated rate, and modern genomics tells this one last story of disequilibrium between our genetic past and contemporary lifestyle.

It Takes a Genome shuns yesterday's stale debates over "nature vs. nurture" and introduces a new view that is far closer to the truth, including:

Investigation of the genetic "mismatches" that are driving increases in major diseases, including AIDS, Alzheimer's, cancer, and diabetes.
Getting you "inside" the human genome, and explaining the surprising and subtle ways in which it really works.
Looking at the probable sources of genetic variations in human psychology; offering evidence that very different traits are grounded in complex genetic interactions.
“Genes are not instructions engraved in the tablet of our DNA determining this or that. They are sequences of letters that orchestrate tendencies, and we ought to embrace their variety,” says Dr. Gibson.

About the Author

Gregory C. Gibson is Professor of Genetics at the University of Queensland, Australia and was previously William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Genetics at North Carolina State University. He is a leader in the emerging field of empirical evolutionary quantitative genomics, which uses genomic approaches to study how genes and the environment interact to produce quantitative variation. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Basel, Switzerland, and did postdoctoral work at Stanford University. With Spencer V. Muse, he co-authored A Primer of Genome Science, one of the field's leading textbooks.

About FT Press Science

The life sciences revolution is transforming our world as profoundly as the industrial and information revolutions did in the last two centuries. FT Press Science is the newest imprint from Pearson, and is committed to publishing scientific and health related books that discuss issues sometimes deemed controversial, ranging from genetics to global warming. FT Press Science captures the excitement and promise of the new life sciences, bringing breakthrough knowledge to every professional and interested citizen. We publish tomorrow’s indispensable work in genetics, evolution, neuroscience, medicine, biotech, environmental science, and emerging scientific fields. We hope to help you make sense of the future, so you can live it, profit from it, and lead it.

About Pearson

Pearson (NYSE:PSO), the global leader in education and education technology, reaches and engages today’s digital natives with effective and personalized learning, as well as dedicated professional development for their teachers. This commitment is demonstrated in the company’s investment in innovative print and digital education materials for preK through professional learning, student information systems and learning management systems, teacher development, career certification programs, and testing and assessment products that set the standard for the industry. The company's respected brands include Scott Foresman, Prentice Hall, Addison Wesley, Benjamin Cummings, the Stanford Achievement Test, the Wechsler family of assessments, SuccessNet, MyLabs, PowerSchool, SuccessMaker, and many others. Pearson's comprehensive offerings help inform targeted instruction and intervention so that success is within reach of every student at every level of education. Pearson’s commitment to education for all is supported by the global charitable giving initiatives of the Pearson Foundation. Pearson's other primary businesses include the Financial Times Group and the Penguin Group. For more information, go to

It Takes a Genome: How a Clash Between Our Genes and Modern Life is Making Us Sick

Dr. Greg Gibson
February 2009
208 pages
ISBN-13: 9780137137466

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