PerspectiveDevelopment

Exploring early human embryo development

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Science  08 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6393, pp. 1075-1076
DOI: 10.1126/science.aas9302

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  • Entangled Mortality: A Biological Parrondo’s Paradox
    • Kang Hao Cheong, Assistant Professor, Singapore Institute of Technology
    • Other Contributors:
      • Jin Ming Koh, Singapore Institute of Technology
      • Michael C. Jones, PO Box 432, Ashland, Missouri, USA 65010

    Kang Hao Cheong 1*, Jin Ming Koh 1, and Michael C. Jones 2
    1 Engineering Cluster, Singapore Institute of Technology, 10 Dover Drive, S138683, Singapore.
    2 PO Box 432, Ashland, Missouri, USA 65010.
    *Corresponding author. Email: kanghao.cheong@singaporetech.edu.sg (K.H.C.)

    Recently, Rossant and Tam (1) discussed early human embryo development; and Dance (2) reviewed bioethical and technical concerns on editing the human genome, creating "designer babies" and extending lifespans. We point out a fundamental biological caution.

    Patterns of natural senescence reflect eco-evolutionary life cycle optimization across taxa. Organisms such as mayflies and salmon exhibit rapid synchronous breeding, senescence and death, whereas humans are slow and asynchronous. Diversified multimodal patterns of proximal mortality causes, such as cancer, heart disease, and dementia, underpin our protracted senescence; such asynchrony may befit our overall life history trait adaptations to extremely stochastic environments.

    We recently argued that life cycle evolution can be modelled as an optimization problem within the game-theoretic framework of Parrondo's paradox (3), in which individually losing strategies combine to create emergent winning outcomes. In this model, aging and death of individuals are necessary for lineage survival and are shaped by continuous directional selection to opti...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.