Biological anthropologists have been contributing to what is now referred to as evolutionary medicine for more than a half century, although the phrase itself began to be widely used only in the early 1990s. Three topics in which anthropological contributions have been especially significant include nutrition, reproductive health, and chronic disease. A major focus in nutrition and reproduction is the health consequences of evolved biology in the context of contemporary diets, lifestyles, and contraceptive practices seen in industrialized nations. Contributions from anthropology include efforts to assess and redefine the concept of “normal” in health indicators, emphasis on developmental processes in addition to proximate and ultimate forces affecting health, and enhancement of understanding of contemporary health disparities. Evolutionary medicine is a highly interdisciplinary field, and anthropologists have played important roles in directing attention not only to evolutionary processes but also to sociocultural and sociopolitical effects on human health.
The genome consists of the entire DNA present in the nucleus of the fertilized embryo, which is then duplicated in every cell in the body. A draft sequence of the chimpanzee genome is now available, providing opportunities to better understand genetic contributions to human evolution, development, and disease. Sequence differences from the human genome were confirmed to be 1% in areas that can be precisely aligned, representing 35 million single base-pair differences. Some 45 million nucleotides of insertions and deletions unique to each lineage were also discovered, making the actual difference between the two genomes 4%. We discuss the opportunities and challenges that arise from this information and the need for comparison with additional species, as well as population genetic studies. Finally, we present a few examples of interesting findings resulting from genome-wide analyses, candidate gene studies, and combined approaches, emphasizing the pros and cons of each approach.
Environmental stimuli interact with common genetic variants to determine individual characteristics including physical performance: 80% of variation in arm eccentric flexor strength and grip strength may be genetically determined. However, many physical characteristics and physiological processes determine physical performance, and each is regulated by a large number of genes: strong genetic influences on maximum exertional oxygen uptake, heart size, lean mass, skeletal muscle growth, and bone mineral density have all been described. To date few variants strongly influencing global performance have been identified. One such is the presence (Insertion, I allele) rather than absence (Deletion, D allele) of a DNA segment in the gene encoding angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE): The I allele has been associated with fatigue resistance/endurance, and the D-allele with strength gain.
The Genetic Reinscription of Race
Nadia Abu El-Haj
Nadia Abu El-Haj
Critics have debated for the past decade or more whether race is dead or alive in “the new genetics”: Is genomics opening up novel terrains for social identities or is it reauthorizing race? I explore the relationship between race and the new genetics by considering whether this “race” is the same scientific object as that produced by race science and whether these race-making practices are animated by similar social and political logics. I consider the styles of reasoning characteristic of the scientific work together with the economic and political rationalities of neo-liberalism, including identity politics as it meets biological citizenship. I seek to understand why and how group-based diversity emerges as an object of value—something to be studied and specified, something to be fought for and embraced, and something that is profitable—in the networks that sustain the world of (post)genomics today.