• Cooperation and Conflict Lab

    Exploring new worlds

  • THE MISSION

    We explore how cooperation and conflict shape life, from human societies to cellular interactions.

  • VALUES

    Diversity. Collaboration. Engagement.

  • Projects

    Innovative. Interdisciplinary. Impactful.

    The Human Generosity Project

    A large focus of our lab is studying cooperation in humans, focusing especially on helping behavior that occurs in times of need. We study food sharing, resource transfers, shared work and other forms of cooperation using diverse methods including human laboratory experiments, anthropological fieldwork and computational modeling. We also apply these principles to practical problems including resource management and disaster recovery. Learn more about these studies and more on The Human Generosity Project webpage.

    Cancer and Multicellular Cooperation

    Multicellular bodies are essentially societies of cells that must cooperate and coordinate to contribute most effectively to the fitness of the organism. Cancer represents a breakdown of this multicellular cooperation. In our lab we examine cancer through this lens using computational modeling and clinical collaborations. Our work on this topic was recently covered in The New York Times article Cellular 'Cheaters' Give Rise to Cancer.

    Cooperation and Conflict

    In addition to studying human sharing and cancer, our lab studies a variety of other systems that are governed by fundamental tensions between cooperation and conflict. This includes maternal-fetal conflict in microchimerism, a topic covered in a recent New York Times article A Pregnancy Souvenir: Cells That are Not Your Own based on our review paper.

    Microbiome & Behavior

    The human body is not a singular entity or even a single species: rather, it is a collection of genetically distinct organisms, with distinct fitness interests. Within the gut, microbes have access to chemical triggers of human eating behavior. We are exploring the possibility that and the microbiome plays a role in unhealthy eating behavior, covered in The New York Times article Our Microbiome May Be Looking Out for Itself.

    Kombucha (#livingpotion)

    Fermented foods are a type of microscopic ecosystem cultivated by humans for thousands of years. Kombucha is a popular drink made by the fermentation of tea by symbiotic bacteria and yeast. We see fermented foods like Kombucha as an easy, accessible model for testing ideas about cooperation. We are using this beverage as a unique system for exploring microbial resource exchange and to determine whether the symbiosis is able to fight off pathogens that single species of microbes cannot. Read more about Kombucha in our BLOG!

  • Select Publications

    Understanding cooperation through fitness interdependence

    Aktipis A, Cronk L, Alcock J, Ayers JD, Baciu C. et al. (2018) Understanding cooperation through fitness interdependence. Nature Human Behavior.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Resource conflict and cooperation between human host and gut microbiota: implications for nutrition and health.

    Wasielewski, H., Alcock, J., Aktipis, C. A. (2016). Resource conflict and cooperation between human host and gut microbiota: implications for nutrition and health. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1372: 20–28.

    Cooperation in an uncertain world: For the Maasai of East Africa need-based transfers outperform account keeping in volatile environments.

    Aktipis, C.A., Cronk, L., De Aguilar, R (2016). Cooperation in an uncertain world: For the Maasai of East Africa need-based transfers outperform account keeping in volatile environments. Human Ecology, 44(3): 353–364.

     

    Principles of cooperation across systems: from human sharing to multicellularity and cancer.

    Aktipis, A. (2016). Principles of cooperation across systems: from human sharing to multicellularity and cancer. Evolutionary Applications, 9:17–36.

     

     

     

     

     

    Fetal microchimerism and maternal health: A review and evolutionary analysis of cooperation and conflict beyond the womb.

    Boddy, A. M., Fortunato, A., Wilson Sayres, M. and Aktipis, A. (2015). Fetal microchimerism and maternal health: A review and evolutionary analysis of cooperation and conflict beyond the womb. Bioessays, 37: 1106–1118.

     

    Cancer across life: Cooperation and cheating in multicellularity.

    Aktipis, C. A., Boddy, A., Jansen, G., Hochberg, M., Maley, C., Hibner, U., Wilkinson, G. (2015). Cancer across life: Cooperation and cheating in multicellularity. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

     

     

    Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms.

    Alcock, J., Maley, C.C., Aktipis, C.A. (2014). Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms. Bioessays. Online publication 8/7/14.

     

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  • Mission

     

    We examine diverse systems including human societies, cancer in multicellular bodies, the human microbiome, and cooperative multi-species communities (kombucha) to understand the fundamental principles that are shared across systems and to discover new strategies for addressing challenges. Our goal is to better understand how this fundamental tension has shaped the evolution of life and how the management of cooperation and conflict within us (and between us) can support human health and well-being.

     

  • Values

    We value cooperation, inclusivity, diversity of backgrounds and perspectives, community engagement through science outreach and arts, and the principles of open science. We believe that creativity and play are tools for discovery, that diversity of all kinds enhances our capacity to explore new intellectual territory, and that interdisciplinary cooperation and effective communication are essential tools for 21st century science.

  • Questions?

    Ask us! We choose blog topics based on your questions!

    Arizona State University
    Schwada (SCOB) Building
    620 E Orange St, Tempe, AZ, 85281
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