Darwinian Medicine


Modern concepts of evolutionary biology can provide important insights into human vulnerability to disease and suggest ways of reducing that vulnerability and treating the diseases. They also suggest some urgently needed research.

Keywords: adaptation; conflict; Darwinian; evolution

Figure 1.

The reason for maternal–fetal conflict. The curve represents fetal fitness as a function of resources delivered via the placenta. Its highest point (at Of) is the fetal optimum. The maternal optimum is at the point of maximum fetal benefit per unit of maternal expenditure (Om).



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Further Reading

Billing J and Sherman PW (1998) Antimicrobial functions of spices: why some like it hot. Quarterly Review of Biology 73: 3–49.

Gerber LM, Williams GC and Gray SJ (1999) The nutrient–toxin dosage continuum in human evolution and modern health. Quarterly Review of Biology 74: 273–289.

Greaves M (2007) Darwinian medicine: a case for cancer. Nature Reviews Cancer 7: 213–221.

Morell V (1997) How the malaria parasite manipulates its hosts. Science 278: 223.

Nesse RM and Berridge KC (1997) Psychoactive drug use in evolutionary perspective. Science 278: 63–66.

Profet M (1992) Pregnancy sickness as adaptation: a deterrent to maternal ingestion of teratogens. In: Barkow JH, Cosmides L and Tooby J (eds) The Adapted Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Shanks N and Pyles RA (2007) Evolution and medicine: the long reach of “Dr. Darwin”. Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine 2: 4.

Stearns SC (ed.) (1999) Evolution in Health and Disease. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Strassman B (1996) The evolution of endometrial cycles and menstruation. Quarterly Review of Biology 71: 181–220.

Trevathan WR, McKenna JJ and Smith EO (eds) (1999) Evolutionary Medicine. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Williams GC (2000) The quest for medical normalcy: who needs it? American Journal of Human Biology 12: 10–16.

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Williams, George C(Apr 2008) Darwinian Medicine. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001726.pub2]