Hamiltonian Medicine article review

In this review, the authors explore the idea of Hamiltonian Medicine (HM). The driving force behind this idea is Hamilton’s theory of inclusive fitness, which incorporates the fitness of an individual and the effects said individual has on those that carry genes identical to the individual’s via descent. The authors argue that this is a theory that is widely accepted by the thinkers and practitioners of Darwinian Medicine (“the application of evolutionary concepts and tools to understand health and the causes and treatments of disease”), but is not systematically used as it ought to be in a number of contexts. Thus, the goal of their review is to show how HM can provide insights that have been missed/overlooked in the current Darwinian Medicine mode of thought. First, they describe three domains of social relationships covered in the scope of HM: 1) interactions between cells 2) interactions between genes and 3) interactions between humans. They then go on to describe six principles of HM, which all focus on the impact that interactions within and between the three aforementioned domains can have on human health. One example is the relatedness between microbes and the effect that this can have on virulence and transmission. This type of interaction also is dependent on how their hosts, in this case humans, behave, and thus the two domains of relatedness overlap to have a compounded effect on human health. They also point out how intragenomic conflicts and resource conflicts can have profound effects not just within societies but also within individual families. And lastly, they point out new ways of thinking about diseases such as cancer and mental illness. For example, cancer cells exhibit many similarities to microbes in an HM context, which could offer new perspectives from which alternative treatments might found. As a whole, HM seems to offer a very cohesive and profound insight to understanding human health in an evolutionary context. One of the challenges, which the authors mention, is that pursuing this kind of thought and research is going to be incredibly difficult and involved, because of the complex and interdisciplinary nature of this branch of thought and practice. Thus it will take time and experimentation for HM to effectively put into practice and to become a major branch of research. But, it seems that the knowledge and understanding that could come from pursuing it would be well worth the investment – as long as adequate funding and organization go into it.

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