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Evolutionary Medicine at Durham

History of Evolutionary Medicine at Durham

Durham University staff in the Department of Anthropology have been conducting research and teaching classes in Evolutionary Medicine for a number of years.  The research areas that we cover in Anthropology include maternal-infant development and health, mismatch between our evolutionary and present environments, reproductive ecology and gene-culture co-evolution.  In Archaeology, staff members cover topics in palaeopathology and the evolution of diseases, while in the School for Medicine and Health and Biological Sciences, staff cover public health, the co-evolution of host and pathogens, and the evolution of ageing.  In recent years, the number of staff with interests in Evolutionary Medicine in Anthropology, Archaeology, Biological Sciences and the School for Medicine and Health has been steadily increasing.  In Anthropology, there have been a number of new hires since 2005 commencing with the arrival of Professor Gillian Bentley who has been teaching Evolutionary Medicine classes since 2001, Dr Jeremy Kendall in 2007 who, together with other staff in the Department (Dr Jamie Tehrani, Dr Alex Bentley, Professor Robert Layton, Professor Robert Barton, Dr Rachel Kendal) have formed the Centre for the Coevolution of Biology and Culture).  Three new staff members joining the Department in 2010-11 will also be contributing to the programme specializing in behavioural ecology and infectious diseases.

The Department of Archaeology at Durham University is one of the top-ranked departments in this discipline in the UK and runs a number of Masters classes in Palaeopathology (the study of ancient diseases).  Professor Charlotte Roberts heads this programme and provides a unique historical perspective to our new MSc.

The relatively new School for Medicine and Health at Durham (founded in 2001) provides unique opportunities to students who are interested in Evolutionary Medicine.  Professor Pali Hungin, Dean of the School, is interested in incorporating evolutionary perspectives into teaching in the Medical School.  At least one optional course from the various Masters courses in the School for Medicine and Health will be available to students taking the Evolutionary Medicine MSc.

Biological Sciences at Durham has a number of researchers who will contribute to the new programme in Evolutionary Medicine.  Paul Denny is a member of the Infectious Diseases Group and works on protozoan parasites, including malaria that cause a number of human and animal diseases, Current work in Paul's laboratory focuses on host-pathogen interactions with a view to developing potential therapies.  Paul Yeo is also a member of the Infectious Diseases Group and studies how viruses replicate and cause disease, again with the ultimate goal of designing novel therapies to cure viral diseases.

David Weinkove joined Durham University in 2008.  He is interested in the evolution of ageing and how lifespan in organisms can be altered by various interventions.  He is currently investigating the links between ageing and nutrition using the nematode worm Caernorhabditis elegans as a model system. 

Various staff members at Durham have regularly contributed to workshops, seminars, meetings and edited volumes dedicated to the study of Evolutionary Medicine.