EvMed Symposium at AAAS this Sunday afternoon in Washington DC

Evolutionary Biology Impacts on Medicine and Public Health
AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington DC
Sunday, February 14, 2016: 1:30 PM-4:30 PM
Marshall Ballroom West (Marriott Wardman Park)

Evolutionary biology – our own, as well as that of microbial and cancer cells – is fundamental to solving problems in modern medicine and public health, such as the emergence of resistance to therapy, the search for effective therapies and preventions, and the rise in chronic disease. In some situations, applying evolutionary principles can reduce the spread or severity of illness or slow the emergence of resistance to therapy. In other situations, such as reproduction, sepsis, or dental disease, our evolutionary history may make us vulnerable to disorders. Speakers in this cross-cutting session include anthropologists, biologists, and physician-scientists who are using evolutionary principles to address health, optimal environments, vulnerability to disease, and treatment options across the human life cycle.

Organizer:  Cynthia Beall, Case Western Reserve University

Co-Organizer:  Randolph Nesse, Arizona State University
 Pascal Gagneux, University of California, San Diego
Assisted Reproductive Technologies: Evolution of Human Niche Construction?
Andrea Graham, Princeton University
Why Do Immune Systems Harm Their Bearers?
Robert A. Gatenby, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute
Cancer Treatment As Pest Management: Exploiting Evolutionary Dynamics to Optimize Therapy
Christina Warinner, University of Oklahoma
The Evolution and Ecology of Our Microbial Self

Proceedings B Special Issue: Evolution and Genetics in Medicine


Evolutionary biology and genetics have played an increasingly important role in medicine over the last 100 or so years. A specially commissioned series of articles, published in Proceedings B and guest edited by Professor Sir Roy Anderson FRS and Professor Brian Spratt FRS, examine the past, present, and future uses of evolutionary biology and genetics in medicine.

University of Zurich Institute of Evolutionary Medicine seminars announced

“Body by Darwin”, a new book by Jeremy Taylor

A new book by Jeremy Taylor from the University of Chicago Press.
Body by Darwin: How Evolution Shapes Our Health and Transforms Medicine

We think of medical science and doctors as focused on treating conditions—whether it’s a cough or an aching back. But the sicknesses and complaints that cause us to seek medical attention actually have deeper origins than the superficial germs and behaviors we regularly fault. In fact, as Jeremy Taylor shows in Body by Darwin, we can trace the roots of many medical conditions through our evolutionary history, revealing what has made us susceptible to certain illnesses and ailments over time a nd how we can use that knowledge to help us treat or prevent problems in the future.

In Body by Darwin, Taylor examines the evolutionary origins of some of our most common and serious health issues. Read More »

Parkinson’s disease and cancer: A Tradeoff?

Bajaj, Archna, Jane A. Driver, and Eva S. Schernhammer. “Parkinson’s disease and cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Cancer Causes & Control 21.5 (2010): 697-707. Open access

Objective To appraise the existing literature on cancer risk among patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD), determine the overall cancer risk ratio among patients with PD, explore reasons for variations in study results, and assess the potential for publication bias. Read More »

Tissue-Specific Stem Cell Mutation, Selection, and Evolution as a Cause of Aging

There is a mature literature on evolution and aging intended to explain how, despite selection for the morphological, metabolic, physiological, and behavioral prerequisites for survival and procreation, with the passage of time bodies deteriorate ultimately resulting in death. The focus of such explanations is typically on concepts such as age-related variation in the potency of selection and the related notion of antagonistic pleiotropy (Fabian and Flatt, 2011), by which suggests that genes able to promote survival and reproductive success in youth may increase loss of function with age. These concepts address selection on intact organisms. In contrast, a recent article in Science (Goodell and Rando, 2015) contains an article addressing the role of selection directly on somatic cells and in particular tissue-specific stem cells. Read More »

3 new articles in Evolution, Medicine & Public Health

Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health Advance Access Alert
25 November 2015 to 27 January 2016

Developmental contributions to macronutrient selection: A randomized
controlled trial in adult survivors of malnutrition. Read More »

Abstract deadline Jan. 31 for Evolution & Medicine Society Meeting

2016 ISEMPH Meeting
–Abstract Deadline Jan 31
–CME Credit Available
–Student Travel Awards available

The 2016 annual meeting of the International Society for Evolution, Medicine and Public Health (ISEMPH) will take place from June 22-25, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina, thanks to host Charles Nunn and the Triangle Center for Evolutionary Medicine.

Full information about registration and abstract submission is at

January 31 is the deadline for reduced fee registration and for abstract submissions. Abstracts are welcomed for oral or poster presentations on all topics in the field of evolution, medicine and public health.

Click here to download a printable poster for your door.

Plenary speakers include:
Andrea Graham (Princeton University),
Carl Zimmer (New York Times),
Helen Ball (Durham University, UK),
Joshua Schiffman (University of Utah),
Marion Koopmans (Erasmus University) and
Martin Blaser (New York University).

Important Dates:
January 31: Deadline for abstract submission and early registration
February 15: Deadline for travel award application submissions
Early March: Notification about abstracts and travel awards
April 15: Last day for registration fee refunds
May 1: Regular registration ends, and group rate deadline for hotels
The number of discounted rooms is limited, so book early.

We look forward to seeing you for a memorable and exciting meeting!

Randolph Nesse, President, ISEMPH
Sir Peter Gluckman, Vice-President, ISEMPH
Cynthia Beall, Treasurer, ISEMPH, Chair, Program Committee
Charles Nunn, Chair, Meeting Planning Committee

Chair: Cynthia Beall, Case Western Reserve University
Joe Alcock, University of New Mexico
Gillian Bentley, Durham University, UK
Michelle Blyth, Louisiana State University
Jon Laman, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Netherlands
Randolph Nesse, Arizona State University
Charles Nunn, Duke University
Frank Rühli, University of Zurich
Joshua Schiffman, University of Utah

Royal College Evolutionary Psychiatry Interest Group

The inaugural meeting of the Evolutionary Psychiatry Special Interest Group (EPSiG) of the Royal college of Psychiatrists took place on 12 January at the college HQ in London. This is the first evolutionary special interest group in any UK medical royal college. The formation of EPSiG is the culmination of a year-long process which involved submitting a proposal to the college Council, having it approved then gathering the support of a minimum of 120 members/fellows (we got 170 expressions of support) and then having this verified by Council and finally having the inaugural meeting. Although there was clearly a great deal of sympathy for the idea among college members/fellows for the formation of the SIG when it came to actual attendance at the inaugural meeting the numbers unfortunately dwindled to no more than 20 or so. Therefore, we realise that we still have a lot to do to persuade our colleagues within the college that the evolutionary perspective is important to psychiatry both theoretically and clinically. Nevertheless, we have acquired a platform within the college and that’s a step forward.

The elected officers of EPSiG were as follows: Chair: Riadh Abed (Sheffield) Treasurer: Agnes Ayton (Oxford) Newsletter and Website Editor: Paul St John-Smith (St Albans) The Aims and Objectives of EPSiG include raising awareness of the importance of evolutionary theory to psychiatry, encouraging research into the evolutionary psychiatry and providing a forum for psychiatrists and others to discuss evolutionary models, research ideas and data with fellow evolutionists. In addition the SIG aims to facilitate networking with academic institutions and evolutionary scientists, biologists, psychotherapists, psychologists as well as other disciplines such as philosophy and we intend to organise workshops, symposia and conferences on Evolutionary Psychiatry and related subjects both independently and as part of other international meetings e.g. WPA and RCPsych.

Over the next 12 months we plan to set up our own web pages as part of the college website thus taking advantage of the high Google ranking of the main college website. The web pages will include a database of articles and books, links to relevant websites as well as interviews with prominent evolutionary scientists and thinkers. In addition, we are planning to actively advocate within the college for the inclusion of evolutionary science into the MRCPsych syllabus (the main postgraduate qualification for psychiatrists in the UK). We will also aim to publish 2-4 issues of the SIG’s Newsletter during the first year and organize a whole day evolutionary symposium before the end of 2016.

– See more at: https://evmedreview.com/#sthash.tR9W3hoY.dpuf

Job: Teach Evolutionary Medicine Spring 2016 at UCLA

Temporary lecturer (PhD required) wanted to teach Spring Quarter 2016 Evolutionary Medicine undergraduate lecture course in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA.  Please contact Asiroh Cham asiroh@lifesci.ucla.edu for more information.

Subtypes of breast cancer and fast life history strategy

Hidaka, B. H., & Boddy, A. M. (2016). Is estrogen receptor negative breast cancer risk associated with a fast life history strategy? Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, 2016(1), 17–20. http://doi.org/10.1093/emph/eov034  Open access

Risk factors for breast cancer are often confusing and contradictory. Discrepancies are likely due to different subtypes having divergent risk factors. An important distinction between breast cancer subtypes is hormone-receptor status. Compared to women diagnosed with estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer, those with estrogen receptor negative (ER−) tumors are usually diagnosed at a younger age and have a higher mortality [1]. Few studies have attempted to explain ‘why’ breast cancer subtypes have different risk factors. Read More »

2015 Omenn Prize now accepting nominations

The Evolution, Medicine, & Public Health Foundation invites nominations for the Omenn Prize of $5000 for the best article published in 2015 in any scientific journal on a topic related to evolution in the context of medicine and public health. It will be awarded on June 25th at the 2016 ISEMPH Meeting in Durham, NC.

The prize, provided by the generosity of Gilbert S Omenn, will be awarded to the first author of the winning article. Authors are encouraged to nominate their own articles, but nominations of articles by others are also welcome.

Any relevant peer-reviewed article with a publication date of 2015 for the final version of the article is eligible, but the prize is intended for work that uses evolutionary principles to advance understanding of a disease or disease process. The prize committee will give priority to articles with implications for human health, but many basic science or theoretical articles have such implications.

The Prize Committee for this year is chaired by Andrew Read, and its members are David Haig and Grazyna Jasienska. Papers by committee members, their students and lab group members are not eligible, and articles by their co-authors or close associates are subject to special conditions. The winner will be invited to present a talk at the June 22-25 meeting of the International Society for Evolution and Medicine in Durham, North Carolina.

Applications due March 31, 2016 at 5pm US Eastern Standard Time

To submit an application visit: http://evolutionarymedicine.org/funding-and-awards/gil-omenn-prize/

What does evolutionary medicine say about mouse models?

Uhl, E. W., & Warner, N. J. (2015). Mouse Models as Predictors of Human Responses: Evolutionary Medicine. Current Pathobiology Reports, 3(3), 219–223. Open access

Mice offer a number of advantages and are extensively used to model human diseases and drug responses. Selective breeding and genetic manipulation of mice have made many different genotypes and phenotypes available for research. However, in many cases, mouse models have failed to be predictive. Important sources of the prediction problem have been the failure to consider the evolutionary basis for species differences, especially in drug metabolism, and disease definitions that do not reflect the complexity of gene expression underlying disease phenotypes. Incorporating evolutionary insights into mouse models allow for unique opportunities to characterize the effects of diet, different gene expression profiles, and microbiomics underlying human drug responses and disease phenotypes.

All 36 publications in the 2015 Volume of Evolution, Medicine, & Public Health now available open access



Editorial: What we aim for
Stephen C. Stearns
Evol Med Public Health 2015 2015: 122

Original Research Articles Read More »

Towards Xenografts in Clinical Transplantation: Multiplexed Negative Selection of Porcine Endogenous Retroviruses with CRISPR-Cas9

Clinical organ transplantation is now a large medical enterprise, with more than 29,000 organ transplants performed in 2014 in the United States alone (https://www.unos.org/data/transplant-trends/#transplants_by_organ_type+year+2014). Nevertheless, the number of organ donors is insufficient to meet the demand for new organs. For example, in the U.S. during 2014, there were 17,104 kidney transplants but 101,035 individuals on the waiting list for such transplants. Therefore, a recent study in Science (Yang et al., 2015) offers an important proof of principle for a necessary but not necessarily sufficient step on the path to safely using pig organs to substitute for failing human organs. Read More »

HEAT trial of antipyretics: Outcomes the same as for placebo

Acetaminophen for Fever in Critically Ill Patients with Suspected Infection

Young, Paul, Manoj Saxena, Rinaldo Bellomo, Ross Freebairn, Naomi Hammond, Frank van Haren, Mark Holliday et al. “Acetaminophen for Fever in Critically Ill Patients with Suspected Infection.” New England Journal of Medicine 373, no. 23 (2015): 2215-2224.

The long-awaited results of a large multi-center  trial of antipyretics have just been published. The HEAT study assigned 700 ICU patients with fever to IV acetaminophen or placebo and found no differences in the main outcomes of mortality rates or ICU free days.

Interestingly, those who got acetaminophen had a mean daily peak body temperature  only 0.25°C lower than the controls, and a lower mean daily average body temperature only 0.28°C lower.

These findings are important for the special setting of the ICU where antibiotics and physiological support are routinely administered, their generalizability to other settings is limited.

The study cited previous research on the question of antipyretic effects in ICU patients, but made no mention of the evolutionary forces that shape the capacity for fever and its regulation.

New edition of Martin Brüne Textbook of Evolutionary Psychiatry

Textbook of Evolutionary Psychiatry and Psychosomatic Medicine: The Origins of Psychopathology

Second Edition, Oxford University Press, 2015

Martin  Brüne

  • A fully revised edition of a highly successful textbook, bought into line with the recently released DSM-V
  • Unique in exploring ‘why’ humans are susceptible to mental illness, exploring our evolutionary past
  • Accessibly written for students, as well as researhers, in psychology and medicine

When evolution kills: a teachable moment

Andrew Read and Robert Woods recently published a case study of bacterial resistance evolution in EMPH ( Click here for our coverage of this article, and here for PNAS coverage).  Below they offer a commentary about deep implications of this study for the application of evolutionary theory to medical practice and for the teaching of evolution to students and medical scientists. Their commentary is reproduced in full below.

Their suggestions for developing education resources are perfectly aligned with the soon-to-be-released new version of EvMedEd.  Do get in touch with them.

When evolution kills. A teachable moment.

By Andrew Read and Robert Woods

We recently published a case report of a patient who died from overwhelming evolution. She had a chronic bacterial infection, and the evolution of antibiotic resistance became the key threat to the quality and quantity of her life. When she died, we could not but feel it was a failure of evolutionary science. The modern treatment of HIV shows that resistance evolution can be headed off. It should be possible to do the same for bacteria. For the most part, it is not. We hope that our description of this individual tragedy spurs research aimed at predicting, controlling and redirecting life-threatening bacterial evolution in clinical settings.

We have also come to hope that from this tragedy emerges a useful teaching tool. In our experience, students respond powerfully to narratives, particularly of individual patients. The case illustrates how many clinical decisions should be informed by evolutionary principles. We also describe the realities impacting clinical decisions (uncertainty, risk, side effects); the tension between these considerations and evolutionary principles is ripe for classroom debate. Our long list of research questions (Box 1, the Box of Ignorance) provides ample fodder for active learning exercises. The case also provides a hook for discussion of non-chemotherapeutic options (hygiene/infection control, vaccines, phage therapy). It could also motivate student-driven investigations of broader research questions. For instance, are evolution-proof drug combinations as practical for bacterial infections as they are for HIV? Are microbiomes evolutionary risk factors?

We are very keen to help make the most of these pedagogical opportunities. We are considering making a short (2-3 minute) video of the case, and we would be happy to co-develop other teaching materials that could help. Problem sets? Further clinical details? Primers on the evolutionary principles involved? Different materials are likely needed for school students, pre-meds, med students, and graduate students. We continue to work on this case (we are currently analyzing full genome sequences from key time points) and would love to describe our progress to students; we are available for live skype discussions.  Evolutionary science promises to make a very real difference to medical outcomes. Those of you in classrooms are major players in realizing that promise. We would love to help you.

Robert J Woods MD PhD
Department of Infectious Diseases, University of Michigan Health System

Andrew F Read PhD
Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, Penn State

New article in Science: Helminth infection, fecundity, and age of first pregnancy in women

A recently published paper in Science explores the association between helminth infection and pregnancy, finding that different parasitic worms are associated with different effects on women’s fecundity.

Blackwell, Aaron D., et al. “Helminth infection, fecundity, and age of first pregnancy in women.” Science 350.6263 (2015): 970-972.

Infection with intestinal helminths results in immunological changes that influence co-infections, and might influence fecundity by inducing immunological states affecting conception and pregnancy. We investigated associations between intestinal helminths and fertility in women, using 9 years of longitudinal data from 986 Bolivian forager-horticulturalists, experiencing natural fertility and 70% helminth prevalence. We found that different species of helminth are associated with contrasting effects on fecundity. Infection with roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides) is associated with earlier first births and shortened interbirth intervals, whereas infection with hookworm is associated with delayed first pregnancy and extended interbirth intervals. Thus, helminths may have important effects on human fertility that reflect physiological and immunological consequences of infection.

Click here for the full article

New research article in EMPH: Effects of wildfire disaster exposure on birth weight

Original Research Article

Effects of wildfire disaster exposure on male birth weight in an Australian population.
M. H. O’Donnell and A. M. Behie
Evol Med Public Health published 15 November 2015, 10.1093/emph/eov027
Click here for the full article.

Evidence suggests that stress during pregnancy changes fetal development.
Pregnant women who experienced an Australian wildfire had male babies
with higher-than-usual birth weights. These changes might result from
evolutionary adaptations that enhance child or maternal survival and may
reflect the impact of stress on maternal metabolism.


Contributions and suggestions welcome

Please email Editor@evmedreview.com