Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Midday Edition

San Diego Hosts Talks On Evolution And Medicine

The Center for Academic Research & Training in Anthropogeny is hosting a conference October 14 on medicine and health.
CARTA
The Center for Academic Research & Training in Anthropogeny is hosting a conference October 14 on medicine and health.
San Diego Hosts Talks On Evolution And Medicine
San Diego Hosts Talks On Evolution And Medicine GUEST: Ajit Varki, co-director, Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny

What can the very beginning of human existence tell us about health and medicine? That is a focus of the latest symposium at UC Center go. It is a study of human origins. Is now part of standard medical school training. Joining me is Ajit Varki , co-director, Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny . Welcome to the program. My pleasure. It is an interesting question. It turns out it is not anything to do with social, political, religious practice. It is in the history of medical curriculum. As medicine is emerging and blending was sirens in the early part of the 20 century, the evidence for evolution is very limited. By the time evolution was completed in the 50s and 60s in many of our DNA it was too late to get the curriculum. You are giving a talk on human specific diseases. Do we know why some are transmittable between species and some are not? Yes, the evidence is trying to emerge and the details are not quite clear. It is detail that some humans can get and some not. Do we share the same diseases with chimps? You would think that the diseases should be very similar and yet as I mentioned tomorrow the type of heart attacks we get are different than the ones they get. Several diseases that are very unusual in chimpanzees and their common as. How are the heart attacks and chimps and humans different? The human heart attack is called -- you get a block in your arteries and they block of your blood vessels. The chimpanzees they get the strangest these where they get scarring of the heart muscle. To their two ministries. Why don't we get the diseases that they get and why don't they get the diseases we get? All the SUSAR trying to figure out why there apes are dropping dead of these strange diseases. What do you hope it can bring to medicine? At the end of the day, nothing makes sense except in the site of evolution. So it is like sort of thing I'm not going to apply chemistry to medicine. It is a basic science. It ranges all the way from infectious disease to diabetes to heart attacks to Alzheimer's disease and to cancer. So it is fundamental science that needs to be incorporated. The symposium is an effort to get that kind of thing started and happening all across the country. The symposium on that imprecations of anthropology will be held tomorrow afternoon at the San Diego campus. I have been speaking to Ajit Varki, co-director, Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny . Thank you so much. Thank you very much. My pleasure.

How can the very beginnings of human existence help us develop cutting-edge medical treatments?

Scientists will gather in San Diego Friday to discuss anthropogeny, the study of human origins, and how it sheds light on modern health. Ajit Varki, a UC San Diego cellular and molecular medicine professor and co-director of the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny, said most medical school curriculums don't teach evolutionary biology, so his group's upcoming conference is vital.

Humans and chimps are so close genetically that you would expect us to have nearly the same diseases, Varki said. But even major killers, like heart disease, have significant differences across species. In humans, our coronary arteries get blocked, cutting off blood flow to the heart muscle. But in chimps, the disease more directly harms the muscle itself.

"If you do find a difference, since the genes are so similar, you have a reasonable chance of finding out the molecular mechanisms," Varki said. "We only realized this big difference 10 years ago. It's still early days."

The Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny's symposium will be held Friday afternoon at UC San Diego. Varki joins KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday to discuss what diseases seem to only affect humans and why natural selection hasn't eliminated genetic variations that make us susceptible to diseases.

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.