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2023 UNM Evolutionary Medicine

Three learning objectives will be the focus of 2023’s evolutionary medicine elective.

Priority 1. We will discuss “tree thinking” and learn the evolutionary principle of common descent. Our shared evolutionary legacy is the basis for the One Health movement that seeks to bridge the gap between human and veterinary medicine and conservation ecology. Some disease features, like fever, appear in many different organisms, the result of common descent and selection. Understanding the evolutionary reasons for our commonalities can guide treatment decisions, and informs when it might be better to not treat at all.

Priority 2. We will learn how cooperation and conflict interact in health and disease. Cooperation is a prerequisite for multicellular life, made easier by genetic relatedness, but relatedness is not the only way that cooperation occurs. Cooperation between hosts and the microbiome can protect from infection, for instance. Conflict between hosts and the microbiome also happens, contributing to a variety of chronic diseases. Genomic conflict also has a role in infectious disease, cancers, aging, and disorders of pregnancy.

Priority 3. We will explore tradeoffs in human biology, and learn how these affect our health. Tradeoffs are important in life history traits like the course of human childhood, reproductive maturity, menopause, and longevity. Our bodies can’t do everything well at he same time. We prioritize one goal, often at the expense of other goals. Tradeoffs also affect how our bodies respond to injuries, infections and other challenges. Evolved mechanisms negotiate those tradeoffs in our bodies, often with unexpected consequences for our health.

Categories: Uncategorized

Joe Alcock

Emergency Physician, Educator, Researcher, interested in the microbiome, evolution, and medicine

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