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Signatures of multilevel selection in human health

PI(s): Diddahally Govindaraju (Boston University)
Start Date: 4-Apr-2011
End Date: 1-Jul-2011
Keywords: human evolution, evolutionary genetics, quantitative genetics, selfish genes, biomedical

Project summary: Variation in birth, survival, reproduction and death define natural selection. It operates hierarchically across all levels of biological organization: gametes, adults, populations and occasionally, species. Recent studies on selection in humans spanning from molecular to organismic level suggests that natural selection is active in modern human populations despite medical interventions. Occasionally, however, medical interventions themselves may be modulating natural selection at different levels of human biological organization. Levels of selection, also known as multilevel selection, has been recognized in many areas of biology, specifically, animal behavior. Altruistic behavior, in particular, has generated many lively debates. Despite similarities, the levels of selection concept is not appreciated in human genetics and health care. We believe that evolutionary insights gained through a multilevel selection perspective may be useful for developing and delivering individualized health care. Here, we propose to extend multilevel selection models from evolutionary biology to human health. Insights from the rich and diverse body of data emerging from human studies may illuminate evolutionary biology. Such an interdisciplinary synthesis will impact our understanding of many central questions in human evolutionary biology and other organisms