Project: Causality and Mechanisms in the Biomedical Sciences

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One goal of the biomedical sciences is to understand the mechanisms of disease: how cancer develops in the body, how pollution causes allergies, how living in a deprived suburban area may affect mental health. This project will study, in particular, two aspects of disease causation.

The first is especially addressed in social epidemiology: whether and how social factors (e.g. lifestyle choices) can be part of the mechanisms of disease (e.g. depression) alongside biological factors (e.g. genetic predisposition).

The second is especially addressed in molecular epidemiology and biology: how macro-environmental factors (e.g., pollution, diet) can have causal impact onto the micro-molecular level (e.g. changes in the cells and in cell reproduction).

This project will contribute to the philosophical debates on disease causation and on mechanisms. At the same time this project will also contribute to improving biomedical research on the mechanisms of disease by clarifying the status of social factors and the notion of exposure.

The project is funded by the FWO – Flanders, Marie Curie Pegasus Programme and will run during the academic year 2012-2013 at the Center Leo Apostel, Vrije Universiteit Brussel.


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