ANOTHER REASON TO TEACH EVOLUTION
A growing goal for evolutionary medicine (EM) is to
improve human health by establishing evolutionary biology
as an essential basic science for medicine, worldwide.
EM supports research that demonstrates the
power of evolutionary biology to advance the
understanding, prevention, and treatment of disease
Evolutionary medicine is becoming more common
in medical school curricula.
Here's an example:
The Medical Science Educator, 18 April 2016.
Novel Modules to Teach Evolutionary Medicine
The article is open access so anyone can download the PDF for free. Details available from the authors
Teachers find that medical examples of evolution are especially gripping for students. Those who are interested may want to examine the Evolution and Medicine Review website which provides lists of resources and a link to request the email notices of new materials.
Why human evolution should be a basic science for medicine and psychology students
By Jeremy Taylor, April 26, 2016
THE NGSS INCLUDE MANY GOALS FOR
HOWEVER, HAVE YOU NOTICED THAT THE NGSS
INCLUDE NOTHING ABOUT HUMAN EVOLUTION
At the same time, nothing prevents using human evolution
to meet the evolution standards.
WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO TAKE THE INITIATIVE,
AND USE EXAMPLES OF HUMAN EVOLUTION TO
SATISFY GOALS OF EVOLUTION IN THE NGSS.
STUDENTS FIND HUMAN EVOLUTION STUDIES
TO BE EXCITING AND RELEVANT.
USE LESSONS ON HUMAN EVOLUTION
ON THE ENSI WEBSITE AT
MORE INFORMATION ON EVOLUTIONARY MEDICINE:
Darwin in medical school
Some scientists call for a bigger dose of evolution in doctors' educations
School of Medicine Home > MedNews > Stanford Medicine Magazine > Summer 2006
Arizona State University Center for Evolution & Medicine is a university-wide Presidential Initiative directed by Randolph Nesse. Its mission is to improve human health by establishing evolutionary biology as an essential basic science for medicine, worldwide. It supports research that demonstrates the power of evolutionary biology to advance the understanding, prevention, and treatment of disease, as well as teaching and outreach initiatives. See http://evmed.asu.edu for details and information on the Core Faculty.
Medical myth buster
Why is it a problem that evolutionary medicine isn’t taught in medical schools? Because doctors end up with false beliefs about disease, according to University of Michigan psychiatrist Randolph Nesse, MD, considered to be the founder of Darwinian medicine.
“Some of these thoughts are 20 years behind the times in evolutionary thinking,” he says. “If someone were 20 years behind the times in understanding genes, we would just throw our hands up, but for some reason we don’t do it for evolutionary medicine.”
Myth: Bacteria and viruses become less virulent the longer the interaction with the host species has been going on.
Evolutionary insight: Natural selection would seem to favor lower virulence, as the host must remain mobile enough to interact with others to spread the infecting organism.
But when transmission occurs through insects, needles or clinicians’ hands, virulence increases — there is no longer a need for a functional host. In hospitals, health-care workers’ hands can actually select for more virulent strains.
Myth: Aging happens because parts wear out.
Evolutionary insight: Rather than a degenerative disease, aging could be viewed as a genetic trade-off. Genes that offer advantages in youth might cause the problems seen with aging and eventually death. For example, strong immune defenses protect against infection but these same responses also inflict continual, low-level tissue damage.
Myth: Annoying responses to infection (such as fever, anemia and diarrhea) are unnecessary and should be alleviated with drugs.
Evolutionary insight: Defenses are often confused with disease states. Fever and low iron levels have evolved to combat invading bacteria, while vomiting and diarrhea help flush the body of infection and toxins. While each of these defenses can cause problems in the extreme, blindly blocking them could be deadly.
Classroom Activity on
Evolution and Medicine
In this college-level activity [but can probably also be done with high school biology students] from the National Institutes of Health, students use data and the principles of natural selection to explain the relatively high frequency of alpha-thalassemia in certain populations. They also learn how comparisons of genetic sequences help researchers studying cleft lip and palate, as well as how natural selection has conserved the genetic sequences responsible for these defects. Materials and detailed instructions for both printed and computer versions are provided.
Access the lesson here: Evo Med Lessons:
Relevance of evolution: medicine
Medical science is continually making rapid advances: new medications and treatments are developed and introduced at a rapid pace, but we can better take advantage of these advances by taking evolution into account.
Like all biological systems, both disease-causing organisms and their victims evolve. Understanding evolution can make a big difference in how we treat disease. The evolution of disease-causing organisms may outpace our ability to invent new treatments, but studying the evolution of drug resistance can help us slow it. Learning about the evolutionary origins of diseases may provide clues about how to treat them. And considering the basic processes of evolution can help us understand the roots of genetic diseases.
The case studies in this section illuminate how evolutionary approaches can make a difference in the world of medicine.
In this section we will explore these key questions:
Why is evolution relevant in the medical field?
Why does evolution matter when it comes to fighting pathogens?
What role does evolution play in hereditary disease?
Understanding evolution is important
Understanding evolution helps us solve biological problems that impact our lives. There are excellent examples of this in the field of medicine. To stay one step ahead of pathogenic diseases, researchers must understand the evolutionary patterns of disease-causing organisms. To control hereditary diseases in people, researchers study the evolutionary histories of the disease-causing genes. In these ways, a knowledge of evolution can improve the quality of human life.
Further reading about the relevance of evolution:
Relevance of evolution: agriculture
Relevance of evolution: conservation
West J Med. 2001 May; 174(5): 358–360.
How is Darwinian medicine useful?
Randolph M Nesse1
Viruses are the most potent drivers of human evolution
By Jeremy Taylor, Posted: 18 Jul 2016 in Evolutionary Medicine
What events have most shaped our human genomes since the split of our ancestors from the ancestors of chimpanzees? What has been the main driving force for human gene evolution? Climate comes to mind; nutrition also; ecology is linked to both. Then there’s social interaction which has driven the evolution of social intelligence. But the one factor that stands out, according to a recent eLIFE paper whose lead author is David Enard from Stanford University, is our interaction with viruses. Viruses have driven over 30% of all the adaptive amino acid changes (non-synonymous mutations) in our genomes, and are the most potent drivers of evolutionary change across mammalian genomes in general.
Evolutionary Medicine in Review