Study reveals how Poor people’s DNA is declining in quality due to stressful upbringings
Stress can leave damaging and lasting imprints on the genes of the urban poor.
This is according to a new study that claims poor people’s DNA is declining in quality as a result of difficult upbringings.
The results are based on the finding that people in disadvantaged environments have shorter telomeres — DNA sequences that generally shrink with age — than their advantaged peers.
The study looked at the telomeres of poor and lower middle-class black, white, and Mexican residents of Detroit.
Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of the strands of DNA called chromosomes, which house our genomes.
In young humans, telomeres are about 8,000-10,000 nucleotides long. They shorten with each cell division and as a result of stress.
Previous research has found telomere length can reliably predict life expectancy in humans.
The research follows a similar study by Princeton University and Pennsylvania State University last year which found stressful environments can impact the DNA of children as young as nine.
The study of 40 9-year-old black boys, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that those who grow up in disadvantaged environments have shorter telomeres.
The researchers also reported that boys with genetic sensitivities to their environment have shorter telomeres after experiencing stressful social environments than the telomeres of boys without the genetic sensitivities.
These sensitivities are based on gene variants related to the serotonin and dopamine pathways — neurotransmitters essential for relaying information between the brain and body.