Viewpoint Essay

​Life is Emerging: Review of Siddhartha Mukherjee’s Song of the Cell

A new book by Pulitzer-winning physician-scientist Siddhartha Mukherjee will be released from Simon & Schuster on October 25, 2022.

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The DNA double helix is often the image spiraling at the center of 21st century advances in biomedicine and the growing bioeconomy. And yet, DNA is molecularly inert. DNA, the code for genes, is not alive and is not strictly necessary for life. Ought life be at the center of our communication of living systems? Is not the Cell a superior symbol of life and our manipulation of living systems?

A code for life isn’t a code without the life that instantiates it. A code for life must be translated. The cell is the basic unit of that translation. The cell is the minimal viable package of life as we know it. Therefore, cell biology is at the center of biomedicine’s greatest transformations, suggests Pulitzer-winning physician-scientist Siddhartha Mukherjee in his latest book, The Song of the Cell: The Exploration of Medicine and the New Human.

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Lee Cooper
Lee Cooper is a biotech investor and entrepreneur, and teaches bio-innovation on the faculty of Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering. He aims to support human-centered innovations built on an understanding of the ways that culture and technology shape one another.
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Snot Fights Covid-19

You won't score many glamor points for using a neti pot, but it could be a worthwhile asset in fighting Covid-19, according to the author's experience and recent research.

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Twice a day, morning and night, I use a neti pot to send a warm saltwater solution coursing through one nostril and out the other to flush out debris and pathogens. I started many years ago because of sinus congestion and infections and it has greatly reduced those problems. Along with vaccination when it became available, it seems to have helped with protecting me from developing Covid-19 symptoms despite being of an age and weight that puts me squarely at risk.

Now that supposition of protection has been backed up with evidence from a solidly designed randomized clinical trial. It found that irrigating your sinuses twice a day with a simple saltwater solution can lead to an 8.5-fold reduction in hospitalization from Covid-19. The study is another example of recent research that points to easy and inexpensive ways to help protect yourself and help control the epidemic.

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Bob Roehr
Bob Roehr is a biomedical journalist based in Washington, DC. Over the last twenty-five years he has written extensively for The BMJ, Scientific American, PNAS, Proto, and myriad other publications. He is primarily interested in HIV, infectious disease, immunology, and how growing knowledge of the microbiome is changing our understanding of health and disease. He is working on a book about the ways the body can at least partially control HIV and how that has influenced (or not) the search for a treatment and cure.
Fixing a Baby’s Abnormal Genes in the Womb May Soon Be Possible

A couple holds up a picture of their ultrasound.

(Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash)


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Bret Asbury
Bret Asbury is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and a Professor of Law at the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law. His current research explores the ethical, social, and psychological impacts that diagnoses of fetal genetic abnormalities can have on pregnant women and their families, and suggests legal and regulatory responses.