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Study reveals how stressful upbringings damage genes

Posted on: 11/08/2015 | source: dailymail.co.uk

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 study found that low-income residents of Detroit, no matter their race, have shorter telomeres than the national average. 'There are effects of living in high-poverty, racially segregated neighbourhoods,' Dr Arline Geronimus, a visiting scholar at the Stanford Center for Advanced Study said in an interview with The Huffington Post.

Within this group, how race-ethnicity and income were associated with telomere length varied dramatically.

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