NYTimes feature on Trumble’s paper on ApoE4 and Alzheimer’s disease

NYTimes feature on Trumble’s paper on ApoE4 and Alzheimer’s disease

“An Ancient Cure for Alzheimer’s?” is the title of Pagan Kennedy’s article in this week’s New York Times Sunday Review about the paper by Ben Trumble, et al., showing that the allele that increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease in most people causes decreased risk in foragers from the Tsimane population in Bolivia who are carriers of intestinal parasites. Her article is available here. 

The original scientific report, cited below, is available here.

Trumble, B. C., Stieglitz, J., Blackwell, A. D., Allayee, H., Beheim, B., Finch, C. E., … & Kaplan, H. (2017). Apolipoprotein E4 is associated with improved cognitive function in Amazonian forager-horticulturalists with a high parasite burden. The FASEB Journal31(4), 1508-1515.

Evolution and Medicine positions available in Anthropology and Biology at Penn State

Evolution and Medicine positions available in Anthropology and Biology at Penn State

Assistant or Associate Professor in the Evolutionary Anthropology of Human Health
and  positions to study resistance evolution (see below)

The Department of Anthropology (http://anth.la.psu.edu) and the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences (www.huck.psu.edu) at The Pennsylvania State University invite applications for a tenure-track, early to mid-career scholar whose research uses an evolutionary perspective to inform understandings of human health, starting in August 2018.  Topical and methodological areas are open, but the research program of the successful candidate will be integrative and trans-disciplinary, drawing on various approaches from across the anthropological, evolutionary, and biomedical sciences.  The candidate could deepen and/or broaden the Department of Anthropology’s existing health-related research strengths in human diversity, human genomics, developmental biology, functional anatomy, quantitative imaging, cell culture and animal models for human biology and disease, biocultural-environment interaction, human-pathogen coevolution, and other areas.  The new faculty member will also benefit from Penn State’s exceptional cross-departmental research environment while they contribute to University-level efforts in developing interdisciplinary expertise on the evolutionary mechanisms of human health.  The successful candidate will have opportunities to train graduate students in the top-ranked Department of Anthropology program and through various Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences-sponsored intercollege programs, and as part of a new (pending final approval) MD-PhD in Anthropology program in cooperation with the College of Medicine.

Review of applications will begin September 8, 2017 and continue until the position is filled.  Direct questions regarding this faculty position to Dr. George Perry (ghp3@psu.edu).

Applications should be submitted online and include:  1) a one-page cover letter, 2) a curriculum vitae with educational background, employment history, and a list of publications; 3) a two-page future research program statement; 4) a one to two-page teaching statement; and 5) the names, affiliations, and email addresses of three professional references.  Apply online at https://psu.jobs/job/72742


University Park Campus
Date Announced:
Date Closing:
open until filled
Job Number:
Work Unit:
Eberly College of Science
Eberly College of Science and the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences


Penn State is adding new open-rank faculty positions to build on existing excellence and intellectual leadership in evolutionary biology, infectious disease and genomics through a cluster hire. We seek outstanding scientists with broad interdisciplinary interests and a track record of applying theoretical and empirical approaches to gain insights on and mitigate against the growing threat of resistance evolution in pathogens (human, animal and plant), cancers and pest species including insects and weeds. Candidates with training in infectious diseases, cancer, evolutionary biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, statistics, information sciences, and clinical or field studies, and an interest in developing programs that will provide novel insights on developing evolution-proof strategies to prevent the development of resistance are especially encouraged to apply. Successful candidates will have a Ph.D., M.D, or DVM or equivalent degree, along with evidence of collaborative work across disciplines to identify novel insights and solutions to managing the risk of development and spread of resistance in microbial populations, cell lineages or pest populations. We particularly encourage candidates interested in research and teaching relating to resistance emergence and evolution, including theoretical and empirical approaches to understanding and mitigating the evolutionary impact of drugs, vaccines and pesticides on their targets and the role of ecological, evolutionary, medical and societal factors in the development, prevention, and control of resistance in major pathogens, cancers and pest species across scales. This global leadership initiative at Penn State is led by the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences together with the Eberly College of Science (ECoS). New faculty will be offered an appointment and tenure home in one of many excellent Departments in ECoS. Successful candidates will become part of one of our centers of excellence such as The Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics (http://www.cidd.psu.edu) and The Center for Comparative Genomics (http://www.bx.psu.edu), amongst others. This is a cluster hire with multiple offers at all ranks expected. Penn State offers access to an outstanding collaborative environment, world-class instrumentation and research facilities, as well as highly competitive salaries and startup packages. Please submit a cover letter as well as future research plans and teaching interests, a complete curriculum vitae and the contact information of three references. Referees will not be contacted without prior consultation with the candidates. Review of applications will start July 15, 2017 and continue until all positions are filled. We welcome informal inquiries regarding these positions to Andrew Read (a.read@psu.edu), Vivek Kapur (vkapur@psu.edu), or Peter Hudson (pjh18@psu.edu). 


ISEMPH Election Results

ISEMPH Election Results

The results are in for the election of new Officers and Council Members for the International Society for Evolution and Public Health.

  • Stephen Stearns was elected President for a two year term starting at the end of this year’s meeting
  • Grazyna Jasienska was elected Secretary for a two year term.
  • Andrea Graham was elected as Treasurer for a four year term.
  • Marlene Zuk, Barb Natterson-Horowitz, and Isabel Gordo were elected to the Council.

Continuing Council members include the Committee Chairs: Andrew Read, Robert Perlman, Grazyna Jasienska, and Mark Schwartz, the EMPH Editor: Charles Nunn, and past Council members who will attend this year’s meeting:

  • Joe Alcock
  • Andrea Graham
  • Alejandra Nuñez de la Mora
  • Frank Rühli
  • Michelle Blyth


Ecology and Evolution of Cancer: New book from Academic Press

Ecology and Evolution of Cancer: New book from Academic Press

Ecology and Evolution of Cancer  1st Edition
Editors: Beata Ujvari, Benjamin Roche, and Frederic Thomas.    Academic Press   2017
eBook ISBN: 9780128043806  Paperback ISBN: 9780128043103

Book Commentary by Leonard Nunney, UC Riverside, Department of Biology

Cancer defines a broad set of potentially lethal diseases occurring when our own cells turn against us. Although cancer is not a single disease, we can raise the question of whether there are broad unifying principles that would allow us to understand the similarities, and, perhaps especially, the differences among cancers. Understandably, most cancer research is not directed at elucidating unifying principles, instead focusing on topics such as the mechanistic details of the initiation and development of specific cancers, and of a tumor’s interaction with the immune system. This approach has been very effective at unraveling the specifics of “how” events unfold, but can do little to help us understand the “why” of cancer. It can be argued that understanding “why” requires a much broader perspective, one that integrates the evolutionary and ecological context into cancer biology, an argument detailed in the recent edited volume “Ecology and Evolution of Cancer”.

Even simple differences among cancers cannot easily be understood within a purely mechanistic paradigm. For example, viewed at the individual level, it is clear that cancer is generally a disease of old age, but the increase is not uniform, with some cancers increasing much more than others. Furthermore, some forms of cancer are not diseases of old age but of childhood. Variation is also found in causation. While some cancers can be linked to inherited mutations or environmental insults, most cancers have no clear causation. Similarly, there is variation in the genetic basis of cancer suppression. It is clear that cancers are closely linked to the abnormal functioning of certain genes or gene networks, however there is not a single “cancer-prevention” network, and the specific genes or networks involved vary among cancer types, a pattern that is understandable only in an evolutionary context. Furthermore, these same generalities apply to other well studied mammals such as mice and domestic dogs but scaled to their life span, so that the cancer risk of an 1.5 year old mouse is similar to the risk of a proportionately aged human of around 70 years old. It is easy to overlook the importance of this shift from absolute time to relative time, a shift that illustrates the central role of adaptive evolution responding to life history and ecology in regulating the onset of cancer. Similarly, at the cellular level evolution also plays a central role. Once a cancer has progressed far enough to be detected, some cancers are rapidly lethal while others progress slowly. Some cancers respond well to chemotherapy, while others may respond initially but then recur. But at the other end of the spectrum, it has long been known that in some exceptional cases a cancer will spontaneously disappear without treatment.

To place these generalities within a broad conceptual framework, it is necessary to dig into the biological context of cancer. Cancer suppression has a long evolutionary history stretching back more than 600 million years to the origins of complex multicellular animals, when the conflicts between individual organisms and the individual cells that they consisted of had to be resolved; however, that same evolutionary conflict continues today, driving genetic differences among species due to their life history and ecological differences. Fortunately for us, this 600 million year old evolutionary conflict favors the individual organism, but at the micro-evolutionary scale, the tables are turned and, once a cancer has initiated, the real-time eco-evolutionary dynamics favor the spread of cancer clones.

Building a general framework for understanding cancer is long overdue. However, the process has started and already suggests novel avenues of research. For example, the importance of a comparative approach is increasingly being recognized, based on the realization that cancer suppression is an evolving trait that adapts organisms to changes in body size and longevity. This realization has focused attention on mechanisms of cancer suppression that have evolved in very large and/or long-lived species, raising the very real possibility that these mechanisms may be of therapeutic value to humans. At the level of a developing cancer, advances in genomic sequencing have made evolutionary-based phylogenetic analyses of cell lineages possible, allowing for the application of evolutionary theory developed to minimize the onset of resistance to chemotherapy.

An important step towards a general framework for understanding cancer is represented by the array of ideas presented in the “Ecology and Evolution of Cancer”. It provides strong arguments for recognizing the importance of integrating ecology and evolution into our understanding of why cancer occurs and why it is so difficult to prevent – arguably an important step that will be invaluable in helping cancer biologists find a robust solution to the problem of cancer.


Introduction: Five Evolutionary Principles for Understanding Cancer

Chapter 1 – The Evolutionary Origins of Cancer and of Its Control by Immune Policing and Genetic Suppression

Chapter 2 – Cancer Prevalence and Etiology in Wild and Captive Animals

Chapter 3 – Infection and Cancer in Nature

Chapter 4 – Pseudohypoxia: Life at the Edge

Chapter 5 – The Genomic Landscape of Cancers

Chapter 6 – The Epigenetic Component in Cancer Evolution

Chapter 7 – Evolution of Cancer Defense Mechanisms Across Species

Chapter 8 – Coevolution of Tumor Cells and Their Microenvironment: “Niche Construction in Cancer”

Chapter 9 – Evolutionary Perspective of Tumorigenesis and Antitumor Immunity: A Comparative Approach

Chapter 10 – The Response of Cancer Cell Populations to Therapies

Chapter 11 – Ecology of the Metastatic Process

Chapter 12 – Transmissible Cancer: The Evolution of Interindividual Metastasis

Chapter 13 – Cancer in Animals: Reciprocal Feedbacks Between Evolution of Cancer Resistance and Ecosystem Functioning

Chapter 14 – Applying Tools From Evolutionary Biology to Cancer Research

Section: Perspectives


Vulnerability to osteoarthritis from antagonistic pleiotropy at loci that induce short stature to protect against freezing?

Vulnerability to osteoarthritis from antagonistic pleiotropy at loci that induce short stature to protect against freezing?

Capellini, T. D., Chen, H., Cao, J., Doxey, A. C., Kiapour, A. M., Schoor, M., & Kingsley, D. M. (2017). Ancient selection for derived alleles at a GDF5 enhancer influencing human growth and osteoarthritis risk. Nature Genetics. (only a preview, article is behind a paywall, but a preprint is available here.)

A noncoding single base pair polymorphism adjacent to GDF5 that causes shorter stature is more prevalent in northern Europe and Asia, and there are signals of selection in the region. The authors say, in a nice overview in Science Daily, “”We argue that shorter height may have been advantageous in the past…because if you were living in a colder climate, having a short, stocky body may actually help you survive,” he said. “When you look at animals that reside in the arctic, they tend to have shorter appendages to reduce the risk of frostbite and to maintain body heat. Interestingly, having the short height variant in this region is thus linked to having an increased risk of knee and hip osteoarthritis, because of separate mutations.”  They also note, “a shorter femoral neck might also have been a protective mechanism that’s brought this sequence to very high frequency in some populations.”

If confirmed, this will be a classic example of a trait that gives both advantages and disadvantages in certain geographical locations, a classic example of antagonistic pleiotropy.


New degree “Evolutionary Biology and Medicine” at University Claude Bernard Lyon

New degree “Evolutionary Biology and Medicine” at University Claude Bernard Lyon

A new degree in Evolutionary Biology and Medicine is available for midwives, nurses, physiotherapists, doctors, pharmacists, dentists, veterinarians, psychologists, etc.) at the medical faculty of the University Claude Bernard Lyon, France. Full information at the official website: www.bem-univ.fr

Auriez-vous l’obligeance de bien vouloir transmettre cette information aux professionnels de la santé humaine et animale de votre connaissance

(sages-femmes, infirmières, kinésithérapeutes, médecins, pharmaciens, dentistes, vétérinaires, psychologues, etc.)

Le premier diplôme universitaire européen :   « Biologie de l’évolution et médecine » 

se déroule pour la deuxième année consécutive à la faculté de médecine de l’Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1

Pré-inscriptions sur CV et lettre de motivation dès maintenant jusqu’au mois d’octobre

Toutes informations utiles sur le site officiel : www.bem-univ.fr

Merci d’avance