February 8 2012

8:30 Tamkin Aud., RRUMC

John Torday
Harbr-UCLA, Professor of Pediatrics and Obstetrics/Gynecology

Exploiting Evolutionary Biology to Advance Medicine: Back to the Future


Evolutionary Medicine Month at UCLA
Tamkin Auditorium (B-Level of Reagan-UCLA Medical Center)
8:30 – 9:30 A.M.

Abstract: Based on descriptive biology, the Human Genome Project was expected to identify the 100,000 genes that constitute man, and rapidly translate them into cures for disease. Neither was correct, reflecting the need for a paradigm shift. Evolutionary Biology reduced to mechanisms of cell-molecular biology offers a new, predictive paradigm. The overarching theme of my talk is that the health of an individual is not merely the absence of disease, but is the active maintenance of evolutionarily-acquired and conserved cell–cell molecular communications, the failure of which denotes disease, maintenance or restoration of which constitutes health and healing.
Lung evolution is a prototype for an evolutionary cell-molecular approach that provides a novel way of thinking about clinical issues; specifically, the body’s response to disease can be predicted on the basis of historic cellular responses to positive selection pressures during every organ’s development. For example, given the signaling pathway commonalities from the evolution of the fish swim bladder to the mammalian lung, it is predicted that the genes in this particular paracrine pathway are highly polymorphic, which they are, providing plasticity for physiologic evolution, on the one hand, and a basis for understanding lung disease, on the other. With these precepts in mind, I will use data from our laboratory to emphasize how evolutionary mechanisms and concepts can be exploited for the safe and effective prevention and treatment of chronic lung disease, and how these principles project to other biologic systems based on existing and future knowledge of embryologic development, homeostasis and disease.

Biography: John S. Torday, MSc, PhD, was born in Budapest, Hungary. He is a graduate of Boston University, with a major in biology and a minor in English. He received his Master of Science (1971) and Doctor of Philosophy (1974) degrees from the Department of Experimental Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He subsequently did postdoctoral training in the NIH Reproductive Biology Program at the University of Wisconsin—Madison (1974–1976). He has been a member of the faculties of Harvard Medical School, Departments of Pediatrics and Physiology (1976–1991), The University of Maryland School of Medicine, Departments of Pediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynecology (1991–1998), and The David Geffen School of Medicine, Departments of Pediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynecology (1998–present). He is currently a Professor of Pediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynecology. As a member of the Division of Neonatology, he is the Director of the Perinatal Biology Training Program, and the Director of the Henry L. Guenther Laboratory for Cell Molecular Biology at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. He has trained more than 100 research fellows and graduate students in research methods and concepts during the course of his career in Neonatology, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Physiology. Dr. Torday has authored 150 peer-reviewed journal articles, and 321 abstracts, the majority of which form the basis for the conceptualization of evolutionary mechanisms in medicine, including a series of 12 journal articles that specifically address this subject in opinion pieces. The journal articles on evolution and medicine form the basis for a soon-to-be-published monograph, entitled Evolutionary Biology, Cell-Cell Communication and Complex Disease (J.S. Torday and V.K. Rehan, Wiley-Blackwell, January 24, 2012). The book is a ‘primer’ for mechanistic thinking in evolution and medicine. It is intended for both established investigators and those in training.

For support, we thank the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute (NIH Grant #1UL1RR033176), Participant Media, and the UCLA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the UCLA Department of Medicine.

For additional information, please contact Susan Kwan,











































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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