Teaching Evolution

A blog devoted to teaching evolution, both in our schools and in our communities.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Evolution of Juvenile Diabetes

Studying evolution isn't just about understanding how we got here, it's also about understanding where we are now. That understanding can aid in the development of medicine. Take this item about a new theory on what led humans to develop juvenile diabetes.
The theory argues that juvenile diabetes may have developed in ancestral people who lived in Northern Europe about 12,000 years ago when temperatures fell by 10 degrees Fahrenheit in just a few decades and an ice age arrived virtually overnight.

Archaeological evidence suggests countless people froze to death, while others fled south. But Dr. Sharon Moalem, an expert in evolutionary medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, believes that some people may have adapted to the extreme cold. High levels of blood glucose prevent cells and tissues from forming ice crystals, Dr. Moalem said. In other words, Type 1 diabetes would have prevented many of our ancestors from freezing to death.

Let's be clear. This is just one idea for how diabetes may have evolved. Most doctors who treat diabetics aren't buying it. But it's a fascinating look at the way studying human evolution has the potential for real medical breakthroughs.

Hat tip: dhodge


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