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Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc. 1997 Nov;72(4):497-548.

Developmental stability, disease and medicine.

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Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque 87131-1091, USA.


Developmental stability reflects the ability of a genotype to undergo stable development of a phenotype under given environmental conditions. Deviations from developmental stability arise from the disruptive effects of a wide range of environmental and genetic stresses, and such deviations are usually measured in terms of fluctuating asymmetry and phenodeviants. Fluctuating asymmetry is the most sensitive indicator of the ability to cope with stresses during ontogeny. There is considerable evidence that developmental stability, and especially fluctuating asymmetry, is a useful measure of phenotypic and genetic quality, because it covaries negatively with performance in multiple fitness domains in many species, including humans. It is proposed that developmental stability is an important marker of human health. Our goal is to initiate formally the integration of the sciences of evolutionary biology, developmental biology and medicine. We believe that this integrative framework provides a significant addition to the growing field of Darwinian medicine. The literature linking developmental stability and disease in humans is reviewed. Recent biological theoretical treatments pertaining to developmental stability are applied to a range of human health issues such as genetic diseases, ageing and survival, subfertility, abortion, child maltreatment by parents, cancer, infectious diseases, physiological and mental health, and physical attractiveness as a health certification.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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