We're a little crazy, about science!

Grew up disadvantaged? Your genes show it.



Are you constantly stressed? Did you grow up disadvantaged [no judgement here, I did], or maybe you had a nurturing household as a child? As it turns out, we can see it in your genes.

A new study out published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows a strong link between the way you are raised and your genes. The study used telomere length as a marker of stress, then compared it to genetic and environmental cues.

First up, what is a telomere? A telomere is the end of the DNA strand, it has no coding purpose [meaning it isn’t storing anything your body needs] but it does, in fact, serve a purpose. When your DNA copies itself [frequently mind you] it loses a little bit off the end, this has to do with the way the DNA is copied, but without getting into details of the process, your telomere length shortens as you age.

Cancers and other diseases brought on specifically by aging can be triggered when your telomeres run out and your DNA is copied. Now instead of losing something that is not needed, you start losing bits of important DNA [things that are actually supposed to be there!]. This causes a whole myriad of age related issues.

With that in mind, the study shows that people who have a rough childhood, defined by: lack of stability, stress, abuse, lack of parenting, or lack of money — have shorter telomere lengths than people who have stable households, defined by: supportive, nurturing parents and good mental and material wealth.

Now for [in my opinion] the most interesting part of the study, for the children with heightened sensitivity in the serotonergic and dopaminergic genetic pathways [in comparison to other children], telomere length was shortest in a disadvantaged environment, and longest in a supportive environment.

A little chart to show the purpose of serotonin and dopamine.

A little chart to show the purpose of serotonin and dopamine.

The study [only] looked at forty children starting at age 9. Now, at the end of the study the children are 15 years old so researchers once again took samples to determine how things had changed genetically in the 6 years the study took place.

Although the sample size is small the data fit the theory extremely well. So what is the next step? Researchers hope to run another study with a larger sample size and hopefully determine which genes are involved.

A graphic to show what a telomere is.

A graphic to show the telomeres.

Blah, blah, blah, you want to see the full study? You can read it — here.

But enough about us, what about you?

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