BODY BY DARWIN

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.

ABSENT FRIENDS
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.
A FINE ROMANCE
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.
THE DOWNSIDE OF UPRIGHT
What is the relationship between the fact that we have evolved to walk upright - our bipedalism - and a range of orthopedic illnesses?
DIY EYE
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.
HOPEFUL MONSTERS
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.
A PROBLEM WITH THE PLUMBING
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?
THREE SCORE YEARS - AND THEN?
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?

READ ON DOWN TO ENTER MY BLOG WHICH IS BASED ON THE BOOK AND EVOLUTIONARY MEDICINE IN GENERAL. COMMENTS AND RESPONSES STRONGLY INVITED!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The Sum of Our Parts | The Scientist Magazine®

The Sum of Our Parts | The Scientist Magazine®



Excellent companion article to the one posted below, which shows how rapidly and comprehensively our "disease-scape" has changed in the last 100 years - even the last 10 - to favour a host of non-communicable diseases that have replaced communicable pathogen diseases that afflicted our parents and the generations before that. These NCDs all have one thing in common - a depleted gut microbiome - at their root. As the authors say: "In less than 100 years, leading diseases and causes of death have shifted dramatically away from infectious diseases and heavily toward noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), not just in developed countries, but around the globe. NCDs are now the number one killer worldwide, accounting for 63 percent of all mortalities.There is no question that environmental variables, including exposure to cigarette smoke, certain dietary factors, and chemicals such as heavy metals, pesticides, endocrine disruptors, or particular drugs, increase one’s risk of developing an NCD. Psychosocial stressors also play a role. But any assumption that the ongoing NCD epidemic is due solely to external factors would be missing a key part of the story: the human microbiome. In reality, the NCD epidemic is as much about the ways we have altered our microbiomes in recent decades as it is about our changing external environment."



These are exactly the points I make in the first chapter of BODY BY DARWIN and this article makes for essential reading.

No comments:

Post a Comment