A new article by Robert Chevalier offers a broad-ranging view of how evolutionary medicine can help to understand the epidemic of chronic kidney disease. It is open access for a limited time. Chevalier, R. L. (2019). Evolution, kidney development, and chronic kidney disease. Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology, 91, 119–131. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.semcdb.2018.05.024
Abstract: There is a global epidemic of chronic kidney disease (CKD) characterized by a progressive loss of nephrons, ascribed in large part to a rising incidence of hypertension, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes mellitus. There is a ten-fold variation in nephron number at birth in the general population, and a 50% overall decrease in nephron number in the last decades of life. The vicious cycle of nephron loss stimulating hypertrophy by remaining nephrons and resulting in glomerulosclerosis has been regarded as maladaptive, and only partially responsive to angiotensin inhibition. Advances over the past century in kidney physiology, genetics, and development have elucidated many aspects of nephron formation, structure and function. Parallel advances have been achieved in evolutionary biology, with the emergence of evolutionary medicine, a discipline that promises to provide new insight into the treatment of chronic disease.
This review provides a framework for understanding the origins of contemporary developmental nephrology, and recent progress in evolutionary biology. The establishment of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo), ecological developmental biology (eco-devo), and developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD) followed the discovery of the hox gene family, the recognition of the contribution of cumulative environmental stressors to the changing phenotype over the life cycle, and mechanisms of epigenetic regulation. The maturation of evolutionary medicine has contributed to new investigative approaches to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and infectious disease, and promises the same for CKD. By incorporating these principles, developmental nephrology is ideally positioned to answer important questions regarding the fate of nephrons from embryo through senescence.
In a new article in the British Journal of Psychiatry, four leaders of the Royal College of Psychiatry Evolutionary Psychiatry Special Interest Group make a case for including evolution education for all psychiatrists.
Abed, R., Ayton, A., St John-Smith, P., Swanepoel, A., & Tracy, D. K. (2019). Evolutionary biology: an essential basic science for the training of the next generation of psychiatrists. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 1–3. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.2019.123 (open access)
A new Lancet article provides a very interesting overview of evolutionary approaches to microbial effects on human health, positive as well as negative. It is available free to those who register on The Lancet website.
Abstract: Medicine and clinical microbiology have traditionally attempted to identify and eliminate the agents that cause disease. However, this traditional approach is becoming inadequate for dealing with a changing disease landscape. Major challenges to human health are non-communicable chronic diseases, often driven by altered immunity and inflammation, and communicable infections from agents which harbour antibiotic resistance. This Review focuses on the so-called evolutionary medicine framework, to study how microbial communities influence human health. The evolutionary medicine framework aims to predict and manipulate microbial effects on human health by integrating ecology, evolutionary biology, microbiology, bioinformatics, and clinical expertise. We focus on the potential of evolutionary medicine to address three key challenges: detecting microbial transmission, predicting antimicrobial resistance, and understanding microbe–microbe and human–microbe interactions in health and disease, in the context of the microbiome.
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.