The purpose of this interdisciplinary course is to understand why and how the evolutionary perspective is relevant for medicine, both in terms of research and practice (i.e. why we need “Evolutionary Medicine”). Although there is controversy about to what extent modern human populations have deviated – genetically and behaviorally – from our hunter-gatherer ancestors, growing evidence suggests that humans have continued and still continue to evolve. However, when clinicians are asked about the relevance of evolutionary theory in their disciplines, many express interest but find the approach more or less irrelevant for everyday practice. This is a profound misconception of what evolution may tell about disease development and counterstrategies. The misconception, in part, resides in the belief that human evolution has been slow and that anatomical and physiological characteristics of our species (i.e. our bauplan) have changed very little in the last 80,000 years or so. A more detailed look, however, reveals that changing ecological contingencies have turned into risk factors for somatic disease and psychological disorders. For example, adaptations to the past environments including nutritional requirements, exposure to pathogens, social issues etc. have now turned into “epidemics” of autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, several forms of cancer, depression, anxiety and other psychiatric conditions. Taken together, we believe that the understanding of evolutionary processes in medicine is not just an academic exercise, but imperative to better understand, diagnose, prevent, and treat medical conditions.
Information and Registration: http://schools.centromajorana.it/evomed2022
The free two-hour event features studies using evolutionary theory and data for advancing our understanding of human health. To view the full programme and to register your place visit the eLife website.
**NEW DATE!** Alzheimer’s Disease: a case of evolutionary mismatch?
Thursday, September 9th at 12pm EDT/18:00 CEST
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.
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.