Biomedical Sciences

Life unfolding: How the human body creates itself

Congratulations to Prof Jamie Davies (CIP) whose book, ‘Life Unfolding: How the Human Body Creates Itself,’ was published on 27th Feb 2014 by Oxford University Press.

Where did I come from? Why do I have two arms but just one head? How is my left leg the same size as my right one? Why are the fingerprints of identical twins not identical? How did my brain learn to learn? Why must I die?

Questions like these remain biology's deepest and most ancient challenges. They force us to confront a fundamental biological problem: how can something as large and complex as a human body organize itself from the simplicity of a fertilized egg?

A convergence of ideas from embryology, genetics, physics, networks, and control theory has begun to provide real answers. Based on the central principle of 'adaptive self-organization', it explains how the interactions of many cells, and of the tiny molecular machines that run them, can organize tissue structures vastly larger than themselves, correcting errors as they go along and creating new layers of complexity where there were none before.

This book is an attempt to explain, in a clear and accessible way, how complex human bodies build themselves from the relative simplicity of a fertilized egg. The emphasis is on a systems approach – on illustrating how appropriately arranged feedback can allow small, dumb units such as molecules or cells, which carry very limited information, to organize at a scale vastly larger than themselves."

Prof Jamie DaviesCentre for Integrative Physiology