Robert Olby’s widely praised biography of Francis Crick was one of the items in a time capsule that was recently buried in the foundation of The Francis Crick Institute, a £660,000,000 biomedical research center under construction in Central London that is scheduled to open in 2015.

The brass capsule, buried by Crick’s daughter Gabrielle, also included letters from scientists, photographs, artwork, and other memorabilia representing Crick, the Institute, its ambitions and locale.  “In this time capsule, we are making clear our aspirations for the Institute to future generations,” said Sir Paul Nurse, the Director and Chief Executive of the Institute, during the ceremony.

Most of Crick’s long life in science was spent on two fundamental problems in biology: how molecules create life and how the brain creates consciousness. To both, he brought his initial training in physics, a discipline judged to have achieved remarkable progress in the 20th century, endowing him confidence (or immodesty, in the eyes of at least one observer) that problems in biology were similarly susceptible to solution. Echoing Crick’s optimism, Sir Paul said that by bringing together many of the world’s best scientists and clinicians, the Institute aims to improve lives and help deliver the innovations that will bring long-lasting benefits to the economy and people’s health.

Between 1947 and 1977 in Cambridge, Crick became molecular biology’s leading theorist, laying foundations for the elucidation of the triplet code, an understanding of the flow of genetic information, and the machinery for synthesis of proteins.  His subsequent years in California until his death in 2004 were devoted to studies of consciousness.  Although the problem proved unyielding and this period of his life failed to provide the scientific success he hoped for, Crick lived long enough to see the emergence of a new generation of scientists with the confidence, and the research tools, to ask questions about the nature of mind that had previously been the terrain of philosophy and the humanities.  He would have greatly enjoyed – and would no doubt have elegantly contributed to – the recent sparring on the relationship between neuroscience and the humanities in the opinion pages of The New York Times. In those articles, and several of the well-informed comments that followed, Crick’s presence at the foundation can be seen once again.

The extracellular matrix (ECM) plays a role in the function of virtually all cells, regulating cellular morphology, adhesion, cell migration, cell proliferation, and apoptosis. Extracellular Matrix Biology, a new book from CSHL Press, covers ECM composition and function, as well as its roles in development, physiology, and pathology.

“We have endeavored to illustrate the manifold aspects of ECM biology,” write the editors Richard Hynes and Kenneth Yamada. Contributors discuss the various ECM proteins and proteoglycans, ECM receptors such as integrins, and the signaling pathways that mediate the effects of the ECM on cells. They also describe ECM functions in specific biological contexts, including angiogenesis, hemostasis, and thrombosis.

“We hope that this collection of reviews by experts in the field will serve to promote research leading to discoveries and applications based on improved understanding of the ECM,” write Hynes and Yamada. Extracellular Matrix Biology is an indispensable reference for cell biologists and all those interested in exploring the myriad functions of the ECM.  For more details on the book, click here.

Calcium signaling plays a critical role in diverse processes such as development, muscle function, and neurobiology. CSHL Press recently released Calcium Signaling, a new book that reviews the biology of calcium signaling—from the channels, pumps, buffers, sensors, and receptors that transport and modulate calcium signals to the physiological processes that are regulated.

“This volume provides a detailed expert snapshot of the calcium signaling field as it stands right now and gives some insight into the history of the discoveries,” write the editors, Martin Bootman, Michael Berridge, James Putney, and Llewelyn Roderick.  “Reading through the chapters provides insight into both the generic nature of calcium signaling and also its unique tissue- and function-specific characteristics.”

Calcium Signaling is an indispensable reference for biochemists, cell and developmental biologists, and physiologists seeking a comprehensive treatment of calcium biology. For more information on the book, click here.

Sperm and eggs provide a link between generations.  During the formation of mature sperm and eggs, germ cells make a key decision to leave mitosis and enter meiosis.  This is one of the unique biological characteristics of germ cells that is reviewed in a new book from CSHL Press, Germ Cells.

Edited by Paolo Sassone-Corsi, Margaret Fuller, and Robert Braun, Germ Cells includes 12 chapters written by experts in the field. The contributors explore the undifferentiated state of germline stem cells, the triggers for meiotic entry, and the transcriptional and posttranscriptional controls during spermatogenesis and oogenesis that lead to the formation of mature gametes. They discuss the expression of sex-linked genes, and the establishment of genomic imprinting in the germline.  Gamete recognition proteins, egg activation, and genetic reprogramming following nuclear transfer are also covered.

“The past two decades have witnessed the accumulation of a spectacular amount of knowledge,” write the editors. “We wanted to incorporate into a single volume not only the remarkable advances that have been made but also the emerging concepts and hypotheses that currently drive thinking and experimentation in this field.”

Germ Cells is an indispensable reference for cell, molecular, and developmental biologists and anyone wishing to understand the implications of germ cell biology for reproductive technologies.  For more information on the book, click here.

The cellular organelle identified more than 100 years ago by Camillo Golgi is the subject of a new book from CSHL Press. Edited by Graham Warren and James Rothman, The Golgi includes contributions that review current models for Golgi traffic, describe the cargo-carrying machinery, and discuss the enzymes that determine the oligosaccharide composition of the cargo. The book also provides recent insights into Golgi architecture and positioning, and the way the Golgi fragments and regenerates during cell division.

Including discussions of Golgi bypass mechanisms, the evolution and diversity of the Golgi, and the involvement of Golgi in development and human inherited diseases, The Golgi will serve as a comprehensive reference for all cell biologists interested in this intriguing organelle.

“Charles Daniel referred to the end bud of the mammary gland as an ‘experimental organism.’ Others have called it the ‘Drosophila eye’ of mammalian functional genomics. Indeed we would argue that the mammary gland itself can be thought of as an experimental organism,” write Mina Bissell, Kornelia Polyak, and Jeffrey Rosen in our latest book, The Mammary Gland as an Experimental Model.

The mammary gland is an excellent model system for research into developmental mechanisms, gene regulation, tissue organization, hormonal action, secretion, and stem cell biology. Studies of this organ are also critically important due to the prevalence of breast cancer in the population. The Mammary Gland as an Experimental Model reviews our understanding of mammary gland development, physiology, and tumor formation, emphasizing the value of the organ as a model system.

For more information about the book, click here.

Today, CSHL Press launched a new review journal, Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine, that covers everything from the molecular and cellular bases of disease to translational medicine and new therapeutic strategies.

CSH Perspectives in Medicine works the same way as its sister journal, CSH Perspectives in Biology. The contributions are written by experts in each field and commissioned as Subject Collections by a board of eminent scientists and physicians. These Subject Collections gradually accumulate articles as new issues of the journal are published and, when complete, each Subject Collection represents a comprehensive survey of the field it covers.

The first issue, out today, features articles discussing the history of Parkinson’s disease, strategies to develop a vaccine for AIDS, and neuropathological alterations in Alzheimer disease.  For the complete table of contents, click here.  Subsequent issues of the journal will feature articles from Subject Collections on cancer biology, malaria, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, cardiovascular disease, and a variety of other conditions.

RNA: Life's Indispensable MoleculeWe’ve just published a new book by James Darnell, one of the founding authors of the popular textbook Molecular Cell Biology (W.H. Freeman). In the new book, entitled RNA: Life’s Indispensable Molecule, Darnell provides the first comprehensive account of the history of RNA research from the perspective of his own distinguished, 50-year career at the forefront of the field.

“My aim in writing this book is to provide a supplement in historical form—both to the younger generation of scientists and teachers and through them to incoming students—that describes how we first learned some of the molecular fundamentals of biology,” writes Darnell.

The book will be useful to teachers of undergraduates, as it provides clear descriptions of major developments in the field of RNA research across a historical timeline, beginning over 100 years ago and continuing to the present day. Darnell enthusiastically and eloquently describes the intellectual context in which each question first arose and explains how the key experiments were structured and answers obtained. (more…)

Mutation: The History of an Idea from Darwin to GenomicsMutations are central to biology—they explain diversity in life forms, provide fuel for evolution, and determine one’s susceptibility to certain diseases.  But scientists have not always understood mutations as we do now—as molecular alterations in DNA.

“Mutation, of course, involves change,” writes Elof Axel Carlson. “But our understanding of that change is influenced by the time we live in.”  In his latest book, Carlson explores the history—the people, science, and ideas—behind the concept of mutation.

Carlson describes how the idea of mutation has changed considerably from the pre-Mendelian concepts of Darwin’s generation over 150 years ago. Darwin viewed “fluctuating variations” as the raw material on which evolution acted. (more…)

The Biology of Lipids: Trafficking, Regulation, and FunctionSince the pioneering work of Gorter and Grendel (1925), it has been well-known that a lipid bilayer forms the core of a cell’s membrane. But for many decades, the focus of membrane research was on proteins.

Our latest book, The Biology of Lipids (edited by Kai Simons), gives lipids their due.  Contributors explore the synthesis, metabolism, and distribution of lipid species in the cell; the composition of lipid rafts and their roles in protein trafficking and signaling; and the biophysical behavior of lipids and membranes.  They also discuss models and techniques to study lipid dynamics and to characterize cellular lipidomes.

“The protein-only focus will soon be gone,” writes Simons. “Membrane researchers are now starting to include lipids in their repertoire.  [W]e have to study both the lipids and the proteins together to come to grips with this fascinating fluid.”