March 31 is the last day to submit nominations for the $5000 Omenn prize for the best article on evolution and medicine or public health in any journal. Nominate yours…or someone else…today! The winner also gets a trip to Zurich to present a paper at the Fifth ISEMPH Annual Meeting.
Several major risk factors for cancer involve vascular oversupply of energy to affected tissues. These include obesity, diabetes and chronic inflammation. Here, we propose a potential mechanistic explanation for the association between energy oversupply and cancer risk, which we call the metabolic cancer suppression hypothesis: We hypothesize that oncogenesis is normally suppressed by organismal physiology that regulates and strictly limits normal energy supply to somatic cells, and that this protection is removed by abnormal oversupply of energy.Methodology
We evaluate this hypothesis using a computational model of somatic cell evolution to simulate experimental manipulation of the vascular energy supply to a tissue. The model simulates the evolutionary dynamics of somatic cells during oncogenesis.Results
In our simulation experiment, we found that under plausible biological assumptions, elevated energy supply to a tissue led to the evolution of elevated energy uptake by somatic cells, leading to the rapid evolution of both defining traits of cancer cells: hyperproliferation, and tissue invasion.Conclusions and implications
Our results support the hypothesis of metabolic cancer suppression, suggesting that vascular oversupply of energetic resources to somatic cells removes normal energetic limitations on cell proliferation, and that this accelerates cellular evolution toward cancer. Various predictions of this hypothesis are amenable to empirical testing, and have promising implications for translational research toward clinical cancer prevention.
The Prize Committee–Dan Blumstein, Sarah Reece and Richard Bribiescas–was unanimous in its decision. Warm thanks to them and to Andrew Read, Chair of the ISEMPH publications committee for all the work to make this decision, and to Doris Williams who has helped to support this prize.
The prize is awarded each year to the first author of the most significant article published in the Society’s flagship journal, Evolution, Medicine and Public Health. Oxford University Press publishes the journal open access. Charles Nunn is the editor. All articles published in 2018 were automatically considered for the Prize. The Prize is made possible by donations from Doris Williams, Randolph Nesse, and other supporters of Evolution Medicine, & Public Health
The Prize recognizes the contributions of George C Williams to evolutionary medicine, and aims to encourage and highlight important research in this growing field. In a seminal 1957 paper, Williams initiated work on several problems central to medicine, including an evolutionary theory of aging and life history traits including menopause. He did important work on the problem of why sex exists. Perhaps his most lasting contribution is his 1966 book Adaptation and Natural Selection, a critique of group selection that transformed how biologists think about the evolution of sociality. In the 1990’s he collaborated with Randolph Nesse on a series of papers and a book that inspired much ongoing work on how evolutionary biology can help us understand disease and improve human health.
We are excited to announce that we are now accepting applications for the 2019 Evolutionary Medicine Summer Institute (EMSI) May 20-24. The goal of EMSI is to introduce core evolutionary concepts to a wide range of topics in human health and disease, including public health, and to train physicians and medical scientists in computational methods used in evolutionary and ecological research.
EMSI will bring together internationally recognized experts in evolutionary biology with students and health practitioners who want to apply these perspectives to cancer, infectious disease, evolution of microbial resistance, neurology, autoimmune disease, the microbiome, and more. Lectures on key concepts will be complimented with hands-on computational exercises. Our goal is to give participants the background on evolutionary principles and the tools to apply evolutionary biology to questions of medical importance. For more information and the application form, please visit our EMSI website.
This year, EMSI will be held at North Carolina State University.
To apply, and for more information, please fill out this form.
Slow progress in finding causes and cures has inspired a growing chorus of calls for new approaches to mental disorders. GOOD REASONS FOR BAD FEELINGS asks a fundamentally new question. Instead of asking why some people get sick, it instead asks why natural selection left all of us so vulnerable to mental illness. The limits of natural selection offer one kind of answer, but several others are equally important. Our environments are vastly different from those we evolved in, making us vulnerable to addiction and eating disorders. Bad feelings like anxiety and low mood are, like pain and cough, useful in certain situations, but they often help our genes, not us, and, like smoke detectors, they are prone to false alarms. Social anxiety is nearly universal because our ancestors who cared what others thought about them did better than other people. Guilt makes morality possible, and grief is the nearly unbearable price of love. Recognizing the evolutionary origins of such symptoms helps to distinguish them from diseases. Trying to understand an emotion requires understanding individuals as individuals.
Topics discussed in the book include:
How emotions were shaped to benefit our genes, not our health or happiness: Jealousy increases fitness, even as it wrecks lives; it hurts to hear babies cry, so parents tend to them; sexual feelings get many people to do things good for their genes but disastrous for them.
How the smoke detector principle explains useless anxiety: should you run if you hear a noise behind a hill that could be a lion? The cost of running is likely to be small compared to the cost of not running if a lion is really there, so false alarms are normal and necessary.
The price we pay for deep, meaningful relationships: Grief and guilt are the price of love and goodness. They exist because we have been domesticated over thousands of years by individuals choosing partners and friends who are honest, trustworthy, kind and generous; worry about what others think of us and the pain of loss are the price of deep relationships.
Why addiction is an unavoidable consequence of our ability to learn: We adapt our behavior as a function of our experiences, doing whatever works. Drugs our ancestors never encountered hijack the system, turning some people into zombies.
Why sexual problems are common: Sexual systems evolved to benefit our genes, at big costs to us.
Why eating disorders are common: Many studies ask why certain individuals are prone to eating disorders but Nesse asks a different question: how do mechanisms that evolved to cope with famine generate uncontrolled eating in modern environments?
Why genes for schizophrenia and autism persist: Some are mutations, but others keep a system close to a fitness peak, despite the risk of catastrophic mental failure.
Why it is usually safe to relieve emotional pain, even when it is normal: Sometimes painful emotions help us, but usually they are excessive or useless. An evolutionary perspective encourages respect for our emotions, but also determined efforts to find new strategies for prevention and treatment.
How an evolutionary foundation can help put psychiatry on the same biological foundation as the rest of medicine: Evolution is a basic science for medicine. GOOD REASONS FOR BAD FEELINGS shows how it offers a way forward in our quest to understand, prevent and treat mental illness.
About the Author
Randolph M. Nesse, MD is a founder of the field of evolutionary medicine and coauthor with George C. Williams of Why We Get Sick. He served for many years as Professor of Psychiatry, Professor of Psychology, and Research Professor at the University of Michigan. He currently is the Founding Director of the Center for Evolution and Medicine at Arizona State University, where he is also a Foundation Professor in the School of Life Sciences. He is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Medicine is grounded in the natural sciences, among which biology stands out with regard to the understanding of human physiology and conditions that cause dysfunction. Ironically though, evolutionary biology is a relatively disregarded field. One reason for this omission is that evolution is deemed a slow process. Indeed, macroanatomical features of our species have changed very little in the last 300,000 years. A more detailed look, however, reveals that novel ecological contingencies, partly in relation to cultural evolution, have brought about subtle changes pertaining to metabolism and immunology, including adaptations to dietary innovations, as well as adaptations to the exposure to novel pathogens. Rapid pathogen evolution and evolution of cancer cells cause major problems for the immune system to find adequate responses. In addition, many adaptations to past ecologies have turned into risk factors for somatic disease and psychological disorder in our modern worlds (i.e. mismatch), among which epidemics of autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity, as well as several forms of cancer stand out. In addition, depression, anxiety and other psychiatric conditions add to the list.
The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Medicine is a compilation of cutting edge insights into the evolutionary history of ourselves as a species, and how and why our evolved design may convey vulnerability to disease. Written in a classic textbook style emphasising physiology and pathophysiology of all major organ systems, the Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Medicine will be valuable for students as well as scholars in the fields of medicine, biology, anthropology and psychology. It has a clear structure which makes this volume easily accessible for students and scholars. Also it has over 130 colour images; this book illustrates beautifully the topic of Evolutionary Medicine. With chapters divided into ‘General topics’ and ‘Specific Organ Systems’, readers are able to understand both the relevant evolutionary background information and the application to physiological systems.