Evolution has provided us with invaluable information since the times of Mendel and Darwin. With the “deniers” becoming extinct completely people can at last be free to appreciate this knowledge for its own sake. From 1949, when infections proved to mould us in particular ways, the role of evolution in our lives has been more fully appreciated.
With the advent of the millennium, the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium (IHGSC) began working on the whole human genome. With all the other genomes (including all of our pathogens) now available, it is clear that we arent as different as we thought we were, but that doesnt take away our uniqueness.
Epidemiology is the study of disease patterns and now utilises analyses that can survey outbreaks of infection or debility using vast computations, especially by recent viral and bacterial pathogens. This doesnt help with our shortage of tools against antibiotic resistance or rapid viral evolution, but improves our chances of finding out where and how we can fight back.
As far as fighting disease is concerned, we have slowly understood new ways of dealing with it, with our natural variable and polygenic responses to body invaders, but there is more to medical genetics than that. Statistics has been a major player, as in the epidemiology, while the details of cancer research have also revealed tumour cell genome change, revolutionising recent immunotherapeutic treatment.
Gene editing is the correction of defects in individuals, leading to terrible problems for doctors and parents to determine how to approach life-threatening disease that is inherited. It also leads to solutions, which is the positive way to think about our scientific advances. Immune systems are also being understood as we age, so that doctors can understand autoimmunity better and fight malignant development.
With the major problems caused by cardiovascular diseases, regeneration after a myocardial infarction is another “miracle cure” that we can now rely upon.
Teresa Kennedy-Lydon and Nadia Rosenthal have their paper here on Cardiac regeneration: epicardial mediated repair. Zebra fish and salamanders were used to study scarless regeneration with the knowledge that early human hearts can also perform like this. The epicardium apparently signals the correct repair process, involving stem cells and many others. The other authors describing areas we note here are all referenced in this prefacing paper by the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, which publishes all of the advances, in their Special feature on evolution and genetics in medicine. The medical race to improve worldwide health can be literally describes as awesome!