AUGUST 20, 2016  -  We comment on an exciting new book, receiving great praise in Nature, that we have added to our “reading list” of important science books for both the broadly educated scientist and the inquisitive non-scientist. Naturally, all Food Scientists will find this book to be “must” reading.

Yong, Ed, I Contain Multitudes: The microbes within us and a grander view of life, Harper Collins, 2016.

Writing in Nature August 11, 2016, Adrian Woolfson comments on this excellent overview of current knowledge and research on the “Microbiome”.

“In the early 1990s, molecular biologist Sydney Brenner gave a talk in Cam­bridge, UK, in which he espoused the merits of sequencing the human genome to fully characterize the human “gene kit”. Several years later, in 2001, the first draft sequence of the human genome was released. The assumption was that human form, function and dysfunction would be reduced to a finite and tractable problem. Over time, this vision has been eroded by the discovery of successive Russian-doll-like levels of informational and regulatory complexity, from epigenetics to microRNAs. Genomic protein-encoding genes may rep­resent the surface of a much deeper problem.”

“In his compelling I Contain Multitudes, science writer Ed Yong plunges into the Alice in Wonderland shadow world of the microbes that live in and on us. As he reminds us, the 30 trillion cells in the human body are effortlessly outnumbered by the 39 trillion or so microbial cells that lurk within it. Our own genomes muster 20,000 protein-encoding genes; our uninvited guests may collectively field an impressive 10 million. We know this thanks to metagenomics — the method of sequencing short, species-specific stretches of RNA, pio­neered by biophysicist Carl Woese in the late 1960s — which helps to define the genomic architecture of our microbial communities.”

Please see our Reading List on our Essays Page of this Weblog.