JUL 01, 2020 8:42 PM PDT

How Neighborhoods Can Impact Gene Expression in Kids

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Researchers followed 2,000 kids born in England and Wales until they were 18 years old, and determined that when young adults were raised in neighborhoods that had a higher degree of social disconnection, were more dilapidated, and economically deprived, their epigenome was altered compared to kids from better neighborhoods. Epigenetic tags are chemical groups that can be added to the genome, are heritable, and are influenced by environmental factors. They also change gene expression.

This research, which has been reported in JAMA Network Open, lends credence to the theory that epigenetics may be a link between disadvantaged neighborhoods and the higher rates of health problems and mortality that are seen in these communities (which is discussed in the video above). The study found epigenetic changes in genes that have been associated with chronic inflammation, air pollution and tobacco exposure, and may be increasing the risk of health problems later in life.

"These findings may help explain how long-term health disparities among communities emerge," said the lead study author Aaron Reuben, a graduate candidate at Duke University. "They also tell us that children who look the same physically and are otherwise healthy may enter adulthood wired at the cellular level for different outcomes in the future."

Image credit: Pixabay

The differences identified by the researchers remained consistent even when they considered socioeconomic status in their analysis. They happened in young people that were nonsmokers and did not have markers indicating high inflammation. The researchers don't yet know whether these changes are permanent, or could be changed later.

"That is something we will need to continue to evaluate," Reuben said.

In this research, the scientist utilized data from many sources including Google Street View, criminal justice databases, neighborhood surveys, and epigenetic data that came from blood draws that were taken when volunteers were 18 years of age.

"The research is an important reminder that geography and genes work together to shape our health," said a senior study author, Avshalom Caspi, the Edward M. Arnett Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience at Duke.

Access to healthcare can be a serious problem for disadvantaged communities. Learn more from the video.

Sources: Science Daily via Duke University, JAMA Network Open

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JUN 22, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Viruses Can Create New Genes By Stealing Bits of Human DNA
JUN 22, 2020
Viruses Can Create New Genes By Stealing Bits of Human DNA
When viruses infect cells, they hijack the machinery inside and start to use it for their own purposes. This enables vir ...
JUN 24, 2020
Microbiology
Genetic Variations Can Affect the Gut Microbiome
JUN 24, 2020
Genetic Variations Can Affect the Gut Microbiome
The small variations in the human genome aren't the only thing that make us unique. We also each carry communities of mi ...
JUL 05, 2020
Microbiology
Stimulating Antibiotic Production in Bacteria
JUL 05, 2020
Stimulating Antibiotic Production in Bacteria
The microorganisms of the world have to compete for survival, and they sometimes do battle with one another. Some use an ...
JUL 23, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
A Human Protein Can Mutate SARS-CoV-2, But It Can Change Back
JUL 23, 2020
A Human Protein Can Mutate SARS-CoV-2, But It Can Change Back
One way the human body can try to fight the coronavirus is by mutating it; these mutations seem to disrupt it. But the v ...
JUL 27, 2020
Microbiology
Vikings Carried, and Helped Spread Smallpox
JUL 27, 2020
Vikings Carried, and Helped Spread Smallpox
A global vaccination effort led to the official eradication of smallpox, but not before it killed over 300 million peopl ...
SEP 06, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
The Beginnings of a Protein Are Captured in 3D
SEP 06, 2020
The Beginnings of a Protein Are Captured in 3D
There are many genes in the DNA that gives rise to an organism, and genes that code for protein are a critical part of t ...
Loading Comments...