First principles of Hamiltonian medicine

Bernard Crespi, Kevin Foster, Francisco Úbeda

Abstract

We introduce the field of Hamiltonian medicine, which centres on the roles of genetic relatedness in human health and disease. Hamiltonian medicine represents the application of basic social-evolution theory, for interactions involving kinship, to core issues in medicine such as pathogens, cancer, optimal growth and mental illness. It encompasses three domains, which involve conflict and cooperation between: (i) microbes or cancer cells, within humans, (ii) genes expressed in humans, (iii) human individuals. A set of six core principles, based on these domains and their interfaces, serves to conceptually organize the field, and contextualize illustrative examples. The primary usefulness of Hamiltonian medicine is that, like Darwinian medicine more generally, it provides novel insights into what data will be productive to collect, to address important clinical and public health problems. Our synthesis of this nascent field is intended predominantly for evolutionary and behavioural biologists who aspire to address questions directly relevant to human health and disease.

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