Latest edition of Manga science and math series is a quick read and easily suitable for junior high students
All living things are made of cells. And thus begins the adventures of Rin and Ami, two Japanese college students who have skipped too many of their intro molecular biology classes to satisfy the attendance requirement. As a result, their teacher, Professor Moro, has “sentenced” them to a summer of makeup classes on his private island. To facilitate their studies, they use a virtual reality machine to explore the human body on a microscopic scale. Professor Moro’s handsome assistant provides the love interest.
This latest edition of the Manga science and math series from No Starch Press is a quick read and easily suitable for junior high students. Although quite simplistic by college standards, it is a fun and easy introduction to the subject for the intended audience. The arrangement of chapters and sections is logical as it goes through cartoon sections as the girls move through the cell and then has more detailed sections to explain a bit more of the biochemistry that they see.
The initial chapter begins with an approach to a living cell and describes the cell wall in terms of the classical protein-lipid bilayer. It shows diagrammatically how proteins approach the membrane and vesicles, fuse with it and, eventually, enter the cell. It then proceeds to tell the reader a bit about cell biology as it describes several organelles within the cell.
It is refreshing to finally see a text that does not totally equate biology with genetics, as most texts that are supposedly concerned with molecular biology just concern themselves with genes and proteins. This introductory text lets the student know right off that the many organelles and biochemical reactions in a complex organism concern themselves with many other facets of a living cell. However, it does concentrate on DNA, RNA and the transcription and translation that occur to make proteins.
Along the way are very clear explanations of cell functioning to stimulate a young mind. We learn about chromosomes, ribosomes, chromatin and research methods for identifying and isolating nucleic acids. Included is a simple explanation of recombinant technology and how these studies relate to human pathology and the search for cures to disease.
This is a well written text that wraps an interesting story around the scholarly quest for understanding and may be recommended for inquisitive young minds. Nothing like this existed (to the best of my knowledge) for my generation. However, for the present, it well serves more than a purely teaching function — it is a stimulus for the next generation of scientists.
The Manga Guide to Molecular Biology, by Masaharu Takemura. No Starch Press, San Francisco (2009). $19.95.
John Wass is a statistician based in Chicago, IL. He may be reached at editor@ScientificComputing.com.