Short Communication - Journal of Evolutionary Medicine ( 2022) Volume 10, Issue 8
A Brief Note on Evolutionary Health and Medicine PerspectivesJonathan Wells*
Jonathan Wells, Department of Industrial Engineering, Iran University of Science and Technology, Iran, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Received: 01-Aug-2022, Manuscript No. jem-22-74811; Editor assigned: 03-Aug-2022, Pre QC No. jem-22-74811 (PQ); Reviewed: 17-Aug-2022, QC No. jem-22-74811; Revised: 22-Aug-2022, Manuscript No. jem-22-74811 (R); Published: 29-Aug-2022, DOI: 10.4303/jem/236077
Evolutionary biology and medicine each cover immense scientific landscapes, subsuming many approaches to diverse issues. Evolutionary medicine is not a new specialty or method of practice or critique of medicine. Instead, it consists of the intersections where evolutionary insights bring something new and useful to the medical profession, and where medical research offers new insights, questions, and research opportunities for evolutionary biology. The opportunities are large in the clinic, the research laboratory, and the classroom. Progress at the interface of evolutionary biology and medicine has given rise to four general messages, three classical themes, and three particularly surprising unique insights.
The four general messages are fundamental but often neglected. First, the view of organisms as machines whose design has been optimized by engineers is as misleading as it is deeply entrenched. Organisms are, instead, bundles of compromises shaped by natural selection to maximize reproduction, not health. They are thus full of unavoidable tradeoffs and constraints. Second, because biological evolution is much slower than cultural change, much disease arises from the mismatch of our bodies to modern environments. Third, pathogens evolve much faster than we do, so infection is unavoidable. Fourth, the idea that common heritable diseases are caused by a few defective genes is usually incorrect. An evolutionary view suggests that many genetic variants interact with environments and other genes during development to influence disease phenotypes. Far from suggesting quick new cures, these four general messages help to explain why disease is so prevalent and difficult to prevent. Three themes at the intersection of evolution and medicine are so well developed they can be considered classic. First, pathogens rapidly evolve resistance to antibiotics just as cancers rapidly evolve resistance to chemotherapy. Second, pathogens evolve strategies to circumvent host defenses, and virulence levels are shaped by natural selection to maximize transmission. Third, human genetic variations that increase disease resistance often have costs, and some variations that increase vulnerability can have benefits. All three classic themes are discussed in articles presented here.
Three previously unexplored insights are particularly surprising. First, humans coevolved with a normal community of symbiotic bacteria and parasitic worms, when they are eliminated by either hygiene or antibiotics, our immune systems can react to this unnatural situation by producing allergies, asthma, and autoimmune disease including very serious ones like Crohn’s disease, which can be treated by ingesting eggs of parasitic worms. Second, the widespread use of imperfect vaccines, vaccines that do not completely and permanently eliminate the pathogen from the body of the person vaccinated, could lead to an increase in the virulence of the pathogen (14); this is of particular concern in the case of malaria vaccines. Third, disruptions of the equilibria achieved in evolutionary conflicts of interest among relatives may be the basis of some mental diseases, particularly autism and schizophrenia, a possibility presented at this meeting, placed in context later in this introduction, and discussed in detailed. All three insights illustrate how evolutionary thinking on medical issues can sometimes illuminate features quite unexpected by non-evolutionary approaches. The Colloquium that gave a forum for these articles was the culmination of at least a score of smaller meetings; however, it should by no means be viewed as the conclusion. This meeting focused strongly on specific research advances across a wide landscape of medicine. It only touched the surface of public health. It said little about behavioral factors that influence disease. And, the coverage of education and policy recommendations was necessarily brief. We hope that this meeting and the articles in this supplement will inspire many to arrange additional communication ventures; some more focused, some more broad, and many, hopefully, organized by and for practicing physicians. The general conclusion, looking over the entire supplement, is that existing bridges between medicine and the basic science of evolutionary biology are getting increased traffic, and new ones are being constructed, but significant gulfs remain to be spanned. In particular, current funding mechanisms reinforce a disjunction between evolutionary biology and medical science and make the development of research programs at their intersection problematic [1-4].
The National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health each currently see this area as outside their respective domains, even while advocating increased interdisciplinary research. To move forward, these major federal funding agencies must negotiate a way to close this gap and support innovative science that does not fit within existing funding structures. Science like that represented in this Supplement is too exciting to neglect. It is as though a lost isthmus between two continents has been discovered, one that opens remarkable new frontiers and paths toward powerful strategies for prevention and cure.
Conflict of Interest
- P. Zaccone, Z. Fehervari, JM. Phillips, DW. Dunne, Parasitic worms and inflammatory diseases, Parasite Immunol, (2006) 28(10);515-23.
- S. Gandon, MJ. Mackinnon, S. Nee, AF. Read, Imperfect vaccines and the evolution of pathogen virulence, Nature, (2001) 414(6865);751-6.
- MJ. Mackinnon, AF. Read, Virulence in malaria: an evolutionary viewpoint, Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, (2004) 359(1446);965-86.
- B. Crespi, P. Stead, M. Elliot, Comparative genomics of autism and schizophrenia, Proc Natl Assoc Sci USA, (2009) 107;1736-41.
Copyright: © 2022 Wells J. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.