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Relevance of evolution: medicine
by the Understanding Evolution team

Researcher examines a DNA gel
A researcher examines a gel used in DNA analysis.
Medical science is continually making rapid advances: new medications and treatments are developed and introduced at a rapid pace, but we can better take advantage of these advances by taking evolution into account.

Like all biological systems, both disease-causing organisms and their victims evolve. Understanding evolution can make a big difference in how we treat disease. The evolution of disease-causing organisms may outpace our ability to invent new treatments, but studying the evolution of drug resistance can help us slow it. Learning about the evolutionary origins of diseases may provide clues about how to treat them. And considering the basic processes of evolution can help us understand the roots of genetic diseases.

The case studies in this section illuminate how evolutionary approaches can make a difference in the world of medicine.

In this section we will explore these key questions:
  • Why is evolution relevant in the medical field?

  • Why does evolution matter when it comes to fighting pathogens?

  • What role does evolution play in hereditary disease?

DNA research photo courtesy of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

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