Why does ‘the hologenome’ matter?

The recognition that all complex organisms are holobionts (hologenomes as vast collaborative networks of collaborative, co-dependent and competitive co-linked ecologies which only seems to us as unitary organisms) impels a complete reorganization of evolutionary thinking.

  • Since all organisms are holobionts, nature is clearly interested in the collaborative relationships at every scale that creates holobionts, not just genes. Evolution is about cellular cooperation and connections as well as competition.
  • As holobionts are vast linkages of environments, genes exist to serve forms by faithfully reproducing the localized, linked, co-dependent and competitive ecologies constituting a holobiont.
  • These cellular ecologies are the result of cellular cognition limited to their scale and the preferences that  they can therefore express within their limits. Cellular awareness and intentionality exist to make forms that serve the constituent cells and  it is by this means that complexity arises. This is not a random process, contradicting standard neoDarwinism.
  • As all organisms are holobionts, and since holobionts can only exist based on complex immunologic interplay, immunology rules in evolution as well as infectious disease.  Importantly then, the origin of species is an immunological event.

There are multiple critically important practical implications of the hologenome.

  • The field of medicine requires redirection towards exploring the actual range of interactions between the microbial life that is part of us and health. Chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, arthritic disorders, and ‘autoimmune’ diseases need to be thoroughly reevaluated. New companies are forming to provide early diagnosis and treatment of critical health issues based on our emerging understanding of our microbiome.
  • The risks of genetic therapies are not fully appreciated since the basic structure of complex organisms and the proper reasons for evolutionary development have been  critically misunderstood. Therefore, the appropriate framework for evaluating those genetic manipulations for the risks of unintended consequences is not yet in place.
  •  Changing climate considerations have concentrated on the superficial and readily observable aspects of rising sea levels or melting polar ice. The much more important narrative for climate change, whenever it occurs or by any means, will be most critically felt in a changing distribution and incidence of infectious disease and the world wide distribution and concentration of that genetic interchange. This issue has received scant notice, despite instances of such shifts changing the distribution of West Nile Virus in the U.S. or malaria in Africa.