How Can Evolutionary Medicine Inform Future Personalized Medicine?

Maciej Henneberg; Arthur Saniotis


Personalized Medicine. 2012;9(2):171-173. 

In This Article

Evolutionary Medicine is Based on Individual Variation

Evolutionary medicine is based on the Darwinian principle that individual variation is sorted in the process of its transmission from generation-to-generation by the forces of evolution. These are directional: mutations and natural selection; and nondirectional: gene flow, inbreeding, genetic drift and assortative mating.[1] Evolutionary medicine is relevant for personalized medicine since it can foster understanding into the relationship between disease and human populations. Evolutionary medicine can also offer nonproximate reasons as to why the body is susceptible to disease. Such awareness may assist towards implementing novel and personalized medical treatments.

The essence of the Darwinian principle is that each individual is different from other individuals and only individuals exist in reality while groupings of individuals into categories are products of the human mind that may be more or less useful for specific practical purposes.[2] In terms of evolutionary medicine it means that it is inappropriate to apply the same diagnostic methods and treatments to all people. Medical attention must be individualized. In its rudimentary form this principle is observed in routine medical practice when blood groups are used and specific genetic disorders can be recognized (hemoglobinopathies such as sickle cell anemia, thalassemia and metabolic problems such as phenylketonuria). However, with the advent of gene sequencing and proteomics, the individualization of treatments and diagnostic methods will expand in the future. Specific treatments can be designed for individual patients to provide maximum therapeutic results for their genetic and epigenetic makeup.