August 28, 2018

Kendra Smyth (Duke University)

Reversing evolutionary mismatch using biome enrichment: the next step


The concept of ‘evolutionary mismatch’ is a fundamental principle of evolutionary medicine and explains how recent changes in Western culture have led to increases in a variety of inflammation-associated diseases. These diseases include allergies, autoimmune conditions, and certain neuropsychiatric disorders including migraine headaches, anxiety, and depression. Foremost among the mismatches that lead to these diseases is a loss of biodiversity from the ecosystem of the human body. Originally attributed to hygiene, this mismatch involves the disappearance of symbiotic organisms, most notably the virtual absence of symbiotic worms, called helminths, which previously inhabited our bodies. The work proposed herein is the next critical step for testing the hypothesis that enriching the ecosystem of the human body with helminths, essentially reversing a key evolutionary mismatch, will alleviate inflammatory disease. Findings from numerous experimental animal studies and a few studies in humans support the reversibility of this mismatch. Nevertheless, helminthic therapy remains inaccessible to the public at large; the studies that would bring this innovative evolution-based medical treatment into mainstream medicine are not currently in progress due to a lack of FDA-approved helminths. Thus, the goal of this project is the develop a protocol that will meet FDA guidelines for producing helminths for human use. I expect that this protocol will be widely used to produce helminths for enriching the ecosystem of the human body and alleviating a range of inflammatory diseases.