The father of the science of evolutionary medicine, Randolph (Randy) Nesse, has a favorite aphorism: “Medicine without evolution is like engineering without physics.” In the same way that it would be impossible to imagine building the Rosetta spacecraft, sending it 300 million miles to rendezvous with Comet 67P, and successfully deploying the Philae lander, chock-full with sampling instruments, without physics and specifically Newtonian mechanics, it proves similarly impossible, for instance, to get to the root of the horrifying scourge of Alzheimer's disease unless we ask deep and fundamental questions, informed by evolution, about what the alleged poisonous plaques of beta-amyloid protein are doing in the brain in the first place. Is amyloid pure pathology or does it have an vital evolved function in the brain? In this sense, Nesse has frequently claimed that the value of evolution to medicine is that it while it may lead directly to changes in medical practice or indeed to new therapies, more fundamentally its value lies in explaining why things are as they are. That is why Nesse argues that evolutionary biology should be the foundation and cornerstone for medicine as it should be for all biology. This book is an attempt to put yet more flesh on the bones of Nesse’s idea that evolution is the “physics” of medicine. I describe the evolutionary background to seven areas of human disease that are causing deep contemporary medical concern to explain why they exist in the first place—why things are how they are - and how evolution might help us to combat them. I hope it will leave readers with a new respect for evolution as the prime mover for the structure and function of human bodies, even if it does, on occasions, cause them to break down and drives us into ER!

Each chapter is built around the sometimes harrowing but always inspiring personal stories of people trapped in the disease process in question. Each chapter provides an evolutionary explanation for why the disease has come about, and each chapter shows how medical researchers, using powerful insights gained from thinking about disease in an evolution-informed way, are charting our way out of it.

How a modern version of the hygiene hypothesis - called the "old friends" hypothesis - explains why the Western world is riddled with allergic and autoimmune diseases, and what we can do about it.
How evolutionary theory explains why the battle between the different selfish genetic interests of mothers, fathers, and fetuses causes low fertility and can lead to diseases of pregnancy like recurrent pregnancy loss, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.
What is the relationship between the fact that we have evolved to walk upright - our bipedalism - and a range of orthopedic illnesses?
Creationists have always used the example of the "irreducible complexity" of the human eye as the bedrock of their argument that God designed the human body, not evolution. Modern developmental biology, however, not only strongly rebuts creationism but explains the astonishing secret of how the recipe for eyes actually unfolds from within the developing eye itself, not from external influences, and is leading to cures for eye diseases like retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration.
How does cancer evolve so remorselessly towards malignancy that it is proving almost impossible to cure? Cancer evolution can be so extreme and drastic it is forcing us to re-write the rules of evolution by resuscitating a heresy from the 1940s.
Why are coronary arteries evolution's answer to feeding our powerful, muscular hearts with the food and oxygen they need and how has this led to the continuing pandemic of coronary heart disease?
Research into curing Alzheimer's disease has become hopelessly bogged down and billions of dollars have been wasted trying to turn the "amyloid hypothesis" into therapy. Can we use evolutionary thought to better explain why dementia comes about in a way that might lead to fresh hope for a cure?


Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Changes in the vascular system may trigger Alzheimer's disease

Changes in the vascular system may trigger Alzheimer's disease: In some people whose cognitive functions are weakened due to Alzheimer's, the disease can be traced back to changes in the brain's blood vasculature. Scientists have found that a protein involved in blood clotting and inflammation might offer a potential path to new drugs.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Human skull evolved along with two-legged walking, study confirms

Human skull evolved along with two-legged walking, study confirms: The evolution of bipedalism in fossil humans can be detected using a key feature of the skull -- a claim that was previously contested but now has been further validated by researchers at Stony Brook University and the University of Texas at Austin.

Microbes evolved to colonize different parts of the human body

Microbes evolved to colonize different parts of the human body: Microbes have evolved over millions of years to live in and on all parts of the human body. Duke scientists have created new ways to reconstruct how this evolution unfolded, using mathematical tools originally developed for geologists. They identified microbes that diverged into new species as they colonized one area of the body after another. The research could prompt new theories and treatments to manage our bacterial ecology and improve our personal health.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

'Good' bacteria is potential solution to unchecked inflammation seen in bowel diseases

'Good' bacteria is potential solution to unchecked inflammation seen in bowel diseases: In a study published in journal Nature Immunology, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers describe how inflammation can go unchecked in the absence of a certain inhibitor called NLRP12.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Ways of escape

Brilliant essay in Darwin Cancer Blog by lead author Mel Greaves, on the many ways cancers can resist drug treatment. The evolution of cancer, says Greaves, bears many similarities to the evolution of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Antibiotics and cancer therapy can easily lead to the selection of pre-existent mutations rather than inducing fresh ones. Success against cancer may reside in multi-combination therapy or ways of coaxing cancers into a less malignant path - rather than prodding them into malignancy and metastasis.