Club EvMed in February

Club EvMed in February

Thursday, February 10th at 12pm EST/18:00 CET
Candidate gene studies have taught us little about trait genetics but a lot about the fallibility of the scientific process

Join us for a conversation with Matt Keller, Associate Professor in the Dept. of Psychology & Neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The candidate gene (CG) approach has been used for 30 years to investigate the influence of specific polymorphisms in genes thought a-priori to be related to complex traits. Thousands of such studies have been and continue to be conducted, most reporting significant associations. In the last 15 years, a much different approach, the genome-wide association study (GWAS), has been used to investigate nearly all common genetic polymorphisms across the genome at once. Using sample sizes orders of magnitude larger than typical CG studies, GWASs have made tens of thousands of reliable discoveries, but the effect sizes are typically much smaller than those detected in CG studies, and specific CG hypotheses have failed to replicate when directly interrogated in GWAS data. What might explain these apparent contradictions? It is possible that CG studies measure traits with higher precision or that they investigate less complex “endophenotypes,” but neither explanation holds up under scrutiny. Rather, CG studies suffer from many factors—publication bias, inconsistent methodological practices, low priors, and low power—that increase the false positive rate in any field. We argue that the many positive findings using the GC approach are largely false positives and are a humbling reminder of the fallibility of the scientific process as currently practiced.

Attendees are encouraged to read Duncan and Keller 2011, “A critical review of the first 10 years of candidate gene-by-environment interaction research in psychiatry” and Border et al. 2019, “No support for historical candidate gene or candidate gene-by-interaction hypotheses for major depression across multiple large samples.” Attendees may also be interested in a response to critique (Border et al. 2019) and a popular media article about this research (Yong). Sign up here for the meeting link: https://duke.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEodOqsqD4qGtIh9AW_utDNUiz9ubSHwDw5.

Thursday, February 24th at 12pm EST/18:00 CET: Evolutionary medicine helps explain regional differences in pandemic dynamics: immunity, symbiosis, and COVID-19

Join us for a conversation with William Parker, CEO of WPLabs, Inc., and Dawit Wolday, Associate Professor of Medicine at Mekelle University College of Health Sciences. Data have been mounting for more than 50 years pointing toward the importance of “complex eukaryotic symbionts” in immune system development and function. These symbionts include protists, cestodes and nematodes, most of which have been lost to humans in high-income countries. Such loss is a direct result of the much-needed introduction of “systems hygiene” that effectively prevents pandemics of some communicable diseases. Unfortunately, available evidence indicates that the loss of complex eukaryotic symbionts in high-income countries can be defined as an evolutionary mismatch that leads to immune dysregulation and pathologic inflammation. With the immunological effects of these symbionts in mind, the speakers predicted that the presence of complex eukaryotic symbionts in areas without extensive systems hygiene would effectively decrease the clinical impact of COVID-19. This prediction was subsequently supported strongly by epidemiological evidence and eventually borne out in a study by Tobias Rinke de Wit, Dawit Wolday and colleagues in Ethiopia. Thus, evolutionary medicine proved a useful tool in understanding and anticipating regional differences in the clinical impact of COVID-19, and points toward the vital importance of understanding symbiotic relationships in the context of evolution and medicine.

Attendees are encouraged to read Parker et al. 2021, “Between a hygiene rock and a hygienic hard place: avoiding SARS-CoV-2 while needing environmental exposures for immunity” and Wolday et al. 2021, “Effect of co-infection with intestinal parasites on COVID-19 severity: a prospective observational cohort study.” Sign up here for the meeting link: https://duke.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJ0ucOmopjkuGtEnHVSe_bx-9cfLBWb2Ir5A.

Two January ClubEvMed discussions

Two January ClubEvMed discussions

Spring 2022 Events

We’re pleased to announce our spring Club EvMed lineup. See you in 2022!

Control system failures and evolutionary medicine

Tuesday, January 11th at 12pm EST/18:00 CET

Join us for a conversation with Robert Perlman, Professor Emeritus of the Dept. of Pharmacological and Physiological Sciences at the University of Chicago, and Randolph Nesse, Research Professor of Life Sciences and Founding Director of the Center for Evolution & Medicine at Arizona State University. They will lead a discussion about how natural selection shaped the thousands of control systems that make life possible, how their failure modes can help us understand disease, and the evolutionary reasons why some are especially vulnerable to failure. The goal is to create a community interested in developing work at this intersection, so please come prepared to share examples of how we can study why some control systems are vulnerable to failure.

Attendees are encouraged to read Perlman 2019*, “An evolutionary view of homeostasis: bioenergetics, life history theory, and responses to pregnancy” and Nesse 2021, “Evolutionary medicine needs engineering expertise.” Sign up here for the meeting link.
*Note: If you do not have access to this article, please contact us for assistance.

A Natural History of the Future

Tuesday, January 18th at 12pm EST/18:00 CET

picture of Rob Dunn and the cover of his book, A Natural History of the Future

Join us for a conversation with Rob Dunn, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Applied Ecology at North Carolina State University. Drawing on his recent book, Rob Dunn argues that humans remain far more dependent on nature and nature’s regularities/rules/laws than tends to be presupposed. Focusing on the special case of microbiomes, Dunn considers the question, just how many microbial species do we depend on and how might we ensure that they travel with us into the future? In concluding, he will open up the question to the group to discuss what the most likely scenario is with regard to the intergenerational transfer of the species on which we depend as well as what the hoped for scenario might look like. Sign up here for the meeting link.

EMPH Call for Papers

EMPH Call for Papers

Evolution, Medicine and Public Health welcomes submissions for three topical issues of the journal:

Evolutionary Medicine & Palaeopathology (Edited by Kimberly Plomp, Gillian Bentley, and Frank Rühli) – Submission deadline 15 December 2021

Evolutionary Medicine and Health Disparities (Edited by C. Brandon Ogbunu and Fatimah Jackson) – Submission deadline 15 December 2021

Evolutionary and Biopsychosocial Perspectives on Sickness Communication (Edited by Eric Shattuck and Chloe Boyle) – Submission deadline 15 April 2022

ClubEvMed: September 9 and 21

ClubEvMed: September 9 and 21

**NEW DATE!** Alzheimer’s Disease: a case of evolutionary mismatch?

Thursday, September 9th at 12pm EDT/18:00 CEST

headshot of Molly Fox

Join us for a conversation with Molly Fox, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA. Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a devastating, neurodegenerative disorder that emerges after age 65, afflicting ~20% of women and ~10% of men. A clear, singular cause of AD remains elusive; rather, it is thought to be the result of a complex interplay between physiological, genetic, and environmental risk factors and vulnerabilities. Several risk factors and prodromal phenotypes associated with AD were likely absent or at far lower frequency for the vast majority of human evolutionary history, suggesting the possibility that AD may be a case of “evolutionary mismatch.” My research in this area focuses on two domains of human life that have changed profoundly in recent history: female reproductive life-history patterns and microbial exposures. In this context, I explore how immune function and endocrinology act as key mediators of the journey from risk factors to pathogenesis. I argue that it is particularly important to examine AD risk and etiology in women, because post-menopausal women have opportunity to engage in activities that promote inclusive fitness, and those suffering from AD would not only miss out on these opportunities, but may even be burdensome to younger kin in ways that undermine inclusive fitness. Women are more likely to develop AD than age-matched men, and AD is associated with distinct biomarkers among women and men, justifying the need to investigate female-specific etiologies.

Attendees are encouraged to read Fox et al. 2019, “Alzheimer’s disease and symbiotic microbiota: an evolutionary medicine perspective,” Fox 2018 “’Evolutionary medicine’ perspectives on Alzheimer’s Disease: Review and new directions,” and Fox et al. 2018, “Women’s pregnancy life history and Alzheimer’s risk: Can immunoregulation explain the link?” 

Sign up here for the meeting link.

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The durability of immunity against reinfection by SARS-CoV-2: a comparative evolutionary study

Tuesday, September 21st at 12pm EDT/18:00 CEST

This conversation will be led by Jeffrey Townsend, Elihu Professor of Biostatistics and Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University. Full details to be announced soon, but you can register in advance here.

ISEMPH July 14-16, 2021 Across the World Online

ISEMPH July 14-16, 2021 Across the World Online

The abstracts for over 170 presentations are now available in this searchable sortable database.

We will miss seeing each other in person this year, but having ISEMPH 2021 online July 14-16 makes it possible for friends and colleagues from around the world to participate at nominal expense. Plenary speakers and interactive activities will be live, all other talks will be pre-recorded and available via our website on our YouTube channel, followed by moderated discussions with Q&A. 

There is still time to join one of the Grand Challenges groups that will meet prior to the conference, but act fast.

Register now if you have not already.

Confirmed plenary speakers (see more about the program here)

The ISEMPH program committee for 2021 includes Joe Alcock, Nicole Bender, Michelle Blyth, Sylvia Cremer, Bernie Crespi, Isabel Gordo, Joe Graves, Michael Hochberg (Co-Chair), Jay Labov, Michael Muehlenbein (Chair), Alejandra Nuñez De La Mora, Gillian Pepper, and Frank Rühli. 

Please send questions and suggestions about the meeting to program@isemph.org or michael_muehlenbein@baylor.edu