Focus area EVOLUTIONARY MEDICINE

Medical Life Sciences is one of the few Master’s programmes worldwide with a focus on Evolutionary Medicine. It has been part of Medical Life Sciences form the start, and for a reason.

Diseases are often puzzling. Why certain conditions occur or how to treat them are often questions for which the answers are still pending. When regarding these questions from an evolutionary perspective, researchers often find answers.

Understanding something that first seemed incomprehensible is a powerful experience. It makes progress possible and leads to new approaches, which is very important in medicine to prevent, diagnose and treat medical conditions. Evolutionary Medicine helps create opportunities to do so.

pipetteBringing together evolution and medicine gets fascinating once you start looking at cancer, allergies, ageing, autoimmune disorders or chronic diseases: Why do we suffer from chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or obesity? Why do pathogens develop drug resistance? Can we do something against it? How do our gut bacteria and diet influence our health? The more questions you try to answer, the more intriguing it gets.
You study the connections between evolution and medicine - developing hypotheses, connecting the dots and getting ready to conduct research yourself in your thesis and beyond: Evolutionary Medicine is one of the biggest drivers in today’s biomedicine.

In Kiel, you are extremely well positioned for plunging into Evolutionary Medicine - or EvoMed for short:

  • Medical Life Sciences has been teaching EvoMed since the programme started, with professors hosting seminars for students, running international research projects and supervising students in their thesis work. As an EvoMed student, you will be involved in research from the start.
  • EvoMed lecturers are investigators in the ROOTS Cluster of Excellence. This huge interdisciplinary research project at Kiel University revolves around human societies through history. One big aspect is health. EvoMed researchers investigate how humans adapted to changes in diet over thousands of years and what the consequences are. Skeletal pathology, archeology and the study of ancient biomolecules open a window into life and disease in times long gone. Looking through it leads to eye-opening conclusions that are relevant today.
  • The MedLife faculty have strong ties to the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön, some 20 km from Kiel, whose researchers are involved in EvoMed teaching and supervising. MPI Plön enjoys an excellent reputation internationally.
  • The Kiel Evolution Center KEC is a joint venture of scientific heavy weights merging their capacities for biomedical/evolutionary-biology research. KEC embraces Master programmes such as MedLife, biology Master programmes and PhD graduate schools; many different university institutes, MPI Plön, the Research Center Borstel and the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research join forces for research in evolution and biomedicine. KEC members also teach and supervise EvoMed students.
  • We are located on the medical campus of Kiel University with many specialized clinics, medical departments and institutes involved in EvoMed. Medical doctors and biologists, geneticists and bioinformaticians are investigators in joint research projects. The EvoMed clinical practical, where you shadow MDs in specialised departments and clinics of the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein, exploits this close link to your benefit. In the lab practicals you can follow your special interests in the lab of your choice. The medical part of Evolutionary Medicine is very present.
  • Kiel has been running an ancient DNA laboratory for almost 10 years now. Researchers can extract DNA from ancient biomaterial found in archeological excavations and sequence it. The lab leaders teach in EvoMed and supervise students in their highly specialized lab for thesis work on ancient pathogens that caused diseases such as leprosy, the plague or hepatitis. They follow the ancient arms race between human immune genes and attacking pathogens on a molecular level. Studying how evolution runs its course in a disease’s demise or survival helps to find ways of defusing future disease threats.