New research shows childhood adversity causes changes in genetics
In a look at how major stressors during childhood can change a person's biological risk for psychiatric disorders, researchers at Butler Hospital have discovered a genetic alteration at the root of the association. The research, published online in PLoS ONE on January 25, 2012, suggests that childhood adversity may lead to epigenetic changes in the human glucocorticoid receptor gene, an important regulator of the biological stress response that may increase risk for psychiatric disorders.
The association between childhood adversity, including parental loss and childhood maltreatment, and risk for psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety has been established in multiple studies. However, researchers have yet to define how and why this association exists in humans. "We need to understand the biology of this effect in order to develop better treatment and prevention programs," said Audrey Tyrka, MD, PhD, director of the Laboratory for Clinical and Translational Neuroscience at Butler Hospital and associate professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University. "Our research group turned to the field of epigenetics to determine how environmental conditions in childhood can influence the biological stress response."
Epigenetics is the study of changes to the genome that do not alter the DNA sequence, but influence whether genes will be expressed, or "turned on," versus whether they will be silenced. Knowing that the connection between childhood maltreatment and psychiatric disorders has been linked to the hormone system that coordinates biological stress responses, the researchers sought to identify the root cause at a genetic level.
The glucocorticoid receptor is an important regulator of the stress response, and methylation is a particularly stable type of epigenetic modification. "We knew that epigenetic changes to this gene could be affected by childhood parenting experiences because previous animal research showed that rodents with low levels of maternal care had increased methylation of this gene, and consequently, as adults these animals had greater stress sensitivity and fear in stressful situations," said Tyrka.
The researchers looked at 99 healthy adults, some of whom had a history of parental loss or childhood maltreatment. DNA was extracted from each of the participants using a blood sample, then analyzed to identify epigenetic changes to the glucocorticoid receptor. The researchers then performed a standardized hormone provocation test to measure the stress hormone, cortisol.
The researchers found that adults with a history of childhood adversitymaltreatment or parental losshad increased methylation of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) gene, which is thought to change the way this gene is expressed on a long-term basis. They also found that greater methylation was linked to blunted cortisol responses to the hormone provocation test. "Our results suggest that exposure to stressful experiences during childhood may actually alter the programming of an individual's genome. This concept may have broad public health implications, as it could be a mechanism for the association of childhood trauma with poor health outcomes, including psychiatric disorders as well as medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease," said Tyrka.
In early studies of animals, researchers have identified drugs that can reverse methylation effects. "More research is needed to better understand the epigenetic mechanism behind this association," said Tyrka, noting a larger scale study currently underway at Butler and a study of this association in children. "This line of research may allow us to better understand who is most at risk and why, and may allow for the development of treatments that could reverse epigenetic effects of childhood adversity."
Provided by Brown University
- Childhood adversity may promote cellular aging Mar 16, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Possible link studied between childhood abuse and early cellular aging Nov 20, 2009 | not rated yet | 0
- Biological link connects childhood trauma and risk for chronic fatigue syndrome Jan 05, 2009 | not rated yet | 0
- Biological links found between childhood abuse and adolescent depression Apr 20, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Childhood maltreatment linked to long-term depression risk and poor response to treatment Aug 14, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras
Apr 15, 2011 I'd like to open a discussion thread for version 2 of the draft of my book ''Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras'', available online at http://lanl.arxiv.org/abs/0810.1019 , and for the...
- More from Physics Forums - Independent Research
More news stories
University of Minnesota Medical School researchers from the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, in partnership with the University's Brain Tumor Program, have developed a new mouse model of malignant peripheral ...
Genetics May 20, 2013 | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
Northwestern University scientists have shown a gene involved in neurodegenerative disease also plays a critical role in the proper function of the circadian clock.
Genetics May 16, 2013 | 3 / 5 (1) | 1 |
Informed consent is the backbone of patient care. Genetic testing has long required patient consent and patients have had a "right not to know" the results. However, as 21st century medicine now begins to use the tools of ...
Genetics May 16, 2013 | 5 / 5 (1) | 3 |
Ethicists provide framework supporting new recommendations on reporting incidental findings in gene sequencing
In a paper published in Science Express, a group of experts led by bioethicists in the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine provide a framework for the new American College of Medical Geneti ...
Genetics May 16, 2013 | not rated yet | 0
The use of genome-wide analysis (GWA), where the entirety of an individual's DNA is examined to look for the genomic mutations or variants which can cause health problems is a massively useful technology for diagnosing disease. ...
Genetics May 16, 2013 | not rated yet | 0
(Medical Xpress)—Native peoples in regions where cameras are uncommon sometimes react with caution when their picture is taken. The fear that something must have been stolen from them to create the photo ...
12 hours ago | 4.2 / 5 (5) | 0 |
(Medical Xpress)—Despite spending billions of dollars on research and development, drug companies have been unable to come up with effective treatments for dementia and Alzheimer's Disease (AD). Now, A. ...
10 hours ago | 4.9 / 5 (9) | 0 |
Activating an enzyme known to play a role in the anti-aging benefits of calorie restriction delays the loss of brain cells and preserves cognitive function in mice, according to a study published in the May ...
6 hours ago | 5 / 5 (3) | 0 |
An experimental sleeping pill from US drug company Merck is effective at helping people fall and stay asleep, according to reviewers at the US Food and Drug Administration, which could soon approve the new drug.
5 hours ago | 3 / 5 (2) | 0
Australian scientists have charted the path of insulin action in cells in precise detail like never before. This provides a comprehensive blueprint for understanding what goes wrong in diabetes.
12 hours ago | 4.4 / 5 (5) | 0 |
A drug commonly used to treat depression and anxiety may improve a stress-related heart condition in people with stable coronary heart disease, according to researchers at Duke Medicine.
7 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |