Monday, April 8, 2019

Effects of Socioeconomic Status on DNA

       A new finding from researchers at the Northwestern Laboratory for Human Biology Research suggests that the stress of living at a lower socioeconomic status (SES) actually impacts one's genes. Thomas McDade, the principal investigator for this study, explained that lower SES correlates to differences in DNA methylation, a process which leads certain genes to be turned on or off. This concept is supported by our understanding that lower education and income levels often lead to an increased risk of contracting infectious diseases, developing cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Therefore it is a major public health concern, that people of lower SES may face changes to up to 10% of the genes in their genome due to DNA methylation that is different from the normal conditions, or that of a person who didn't face similar challenges. 

This is an important area of study, as the understanding of how something such as income and chronic stress could result in physical changes and mutations in one's body. Although further study is required to determine the exact effects of different SES, there is a basic understanding that the genes which are most affected have functions related to the development of skeletal and nervous systems. In addition, related studies are continually being done to confirm that childhood poverty as well as adult stress impact genes which affect our immune function. 

Image result for mutated dna

1 comment:

  1. I knew that challenges and stress could affect a person's physical well-being, but I did not know that it could actually alter their genes. When people are under a lot of stress, they tend to have digestive issues and they tend to get sick a lot. I think this study could provide beneficial information if more studies were performed. I would be interested in seeing how much stress a person could handle before their genes start to "change" and how different people are able to handle the stress. It would be interesting to see more background information on how stress turns into changes in the genome. The answers to these questions could possibly provide answers to how we can help those who are struggling.