Evolutionary Processes and Disease

Back on the 17th I wrote about a study that was supposed to appear in BMC Evolutionary Biology. The study concerned the evolution of the MSX1 gene and its role in causing cleft lip and some skin derivative disorders.


This paper has now been published. I am currently reading it and may have more to say about it when I am finished.
A second story concerning evolution and the disease process is mentioned on Science Daily:

In an evolutionary comparison of nerve cell genes appearing in PLoS Genetics last month, Penn scientists show that improvements in the molecules that govern rapid nerve impulses occurred at major turning points in evolutionary history. By making nerve signals faster and more controllable, these innovations appear to have contributed to the building of smarter brains, and perhaps even to the success and diversity of vertebrates. In other experiments presented at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in November and soon to appear in the Annals of Neurology, the scientists found that the same electrical signaling molecules appear to be an effective target for anti-seizure drugs for human newborns.
The electrical signaling molecules at the center of both studies are two related types of nerve cell proteins called sodium and potassium channels. A decade ago, researchers found that mutations in genes for these molecules were a cause of some forms of epilepsy in newborn babies and infants. Sodium channels were already targets of anti-epileptic drugs.

This paper can be found here and I will definitely have more to say about it once I have read it.
In the meantime, seems to me I remember somebody or another saying evolution contributes nothing to medicine…

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2 Responses

  1. So it’s not just a matter of brains getting larger, but of brains getting more efficient as well.
    Now, combine those implications so raised with the information that photosynthesis involves quantum physics to envision a world where quantum effects are consciously manipulated.
    Or, to put it another way, any sufficiently evolved biome is magical. :)

  2. I don’t know who said evolution contributes nothing to medicine, but I can take a wild guess. When I learned about evolution, way back in the dark ages, one of the main examples of evolution given was sickle cell anemia. It was proposed that this had evolved as a mechanism of adaptation to endemic malaria. Children who were heterozygous were less likely to die of either malaria or sickle-cell anemia than their homozygous siblings. I’m sure I didn’t dream that up.

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