What could cancer cells and drug-resistant bacteria possibly have in common with Stone Age settlers of the Americas? They're all migratory, and at one time or other, each finds the going a bit easier in a specific direction.
For cancer cells, the path of least resistance is often along tissue boundaries rather than through them, and studies have found that bacteria can become drug-resistant more quickly in nonhomogenous environments. In the case of humans settling America, a new study from Rice University finds that migration was easier moving east-west as opposed to north-south, largely because the knowledge needed to live in the same climate zones was easily transferable.
The research is available online in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
Lead researcher Michael Deem said he conceived the study while reading Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs and Steel," a 1998 Pulitzer Prize-winning book that argued that differences in power and technology between human societies stem more from environmental and geographic factors than from intellectual, genetic or cultural attributes.