April 30, 2012

Violence Hurts Kids’ DNA

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- In today's society, kids already act and look older than they are. Recent research has proved that the DNA of 10-year-olds who have experienced violence at a young age are found to show wear and tear normally associated with aging.

"This is the first time it has been shown that our telomeres can shorten at a faster rate even at a really young age, while kids are still experiencing stress," Idan Shalev, a post-doctoral researcher in psychology and neuroscience at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy, was quoted as saying.

Telomeres are DNA sequences found at the tips of chromosomes meant for preventing DNA from unraveling. They connect stress to biological age and associates diseases. Telomeres get shorter each time cells divide, therefore, limiting the number of times a cell can divide. Obesity, smoking, stress, and psychological disorders have been found to accelerate the process of telomere loss. Telomeres may reflect biological age as well as chronological age.

The recent study took a former study that followed 1,100 British families with twins since the twins were born in the nineties. Now the twins are 18, but researchers performed an analysis of their DNA samples that were collected when they were five and ten. Also based on feedback from their mothers, researchers know which of them experienced some form of violence, including domestic violence, frequent bullying, or physical maltreatment by an adult, when they were young.

"Research on human stress genomics keeps throwing up amazing new facts about how stress can influence the human genome and shape our lives," Caspi, the Edward M. Arnett Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, was quoted as saying.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Some of the billions of dollars spent on diseases of aging such as diabetes, heart disease and dementia might be better invested in protecting children from harm," Knut Schmidt Nielson, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, was quoted as saying.

SOURCE: Molecular Psychiatry, April 2012