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!

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Culturing of ‘unculturable’ human microbiota reveals novel taxa and extensive sporulation

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature17645.html?WT.ec_id=NATURE-20160505&spMailingID=51301208&spUserID=MjA1NTA5MzQyNAS2&spJobID=920498312&spReportId=OTIwNDk4MzEyS0
Really in-depth sequencing and species-discovering investigation into the human gut microbiome. Available from above as a NATURE open access paper. Here is the abstract:
Abstract
"Our intestinal microbiota harbours a diverse bacterial community required for our health, sustenance and wellbeing. Intestinal colonization begins at birth and climaxes with the acquisition of two dominant groups of strict anaerobic bacteria belonging to the Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes phyla. Culture-independent, genomic approaches have transformed our understanding of the role of the human microbiome in health and many diseases. However, owing to the prevailing perception that our indigenous bacteria are largely recalcitrant to culture, many of their functions and phenotypes remain unknown. Here we describe a novel workflow based on targeted phenotypic culturing linked to large-scale whole-genome sequencing, phylogenetic analysis and computational modelling that demonstrates that a substantial proportion of the intestinal bacteria are culturable. Applying this approach to healthy individuals, we isolated 137 bacterial species from characterized and candidate novel families, genera and species that were archived as pure cultures. Whole-genome and metagenomic sequencing, combined with computational and phenotypic analysis, suggests that at least 50–60% of the bacterial genera from the intestinal microbiota of a healthy individual produce resilient spores, specialized for host-to-host transmission. Our approach unlocks the human intestinal microbiota for phenotypic analysis and reveals how a marked proportion of oxygen-sensitive intestinal bacteria can be transmitted between individuals, affecting microbiota heritability."

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