Wednesday, April 30, 2014
POVERTY'S GENETIC IMPACT
Poverty can leave lasting psychological scars, but new research indicates that it may also inflict genetic damage on children. Researchers from Penn State University found that the genes of disadvantaged kids can resemble those of a middle-aged person, LATimes.com reports. Scientists measured the telomeres—tiny caps on the ends of chromosomes—of 40 9-year-old African-American boys. Half of the boys came from affluent backgrounds, half from disadvantaged homes. They found that the poorer boys’ telomeres were an average of 20 percent shorter than those of their privileged counterparts. Children whose mothers changed partners, which may undermine stability, had telomeres that were 40 percent shorter. Telomere shortening is linked to aging, and might increase vulnerability to mental and physical illnesses. The genetic link could help researchers discover how stress shortens telomeres while underlining the urgent need for intervention programs to reduce the stresses of chronic poverty on children.