Poverty Could Change DNA of People

Friday, May 27, 2016

Poor Genes

A study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry reports that people living in poverty face the risk of DNA alterations that is more likely to cause them to take drugs, become depressed and anxious.

Scientists from the Duke University, US, found that teenagers from deprived backgrounds tended to undergo changes to a gene that increases the activity in the amygdala – part of the brain involved in the ‘fight or flight’ response and panic attacks. This increased activity in the amygdala is linked to a greater risk of depression. Moreover, it was also revealed that a low socio-economic status was associated with low levels of serotonin – referred to as the happiness hormone.

Of late, several studies have shown that genes can be changed by the environment including social interactions, but more importantly, these genes can be passed on to the next generation. Scientists during their research studied changes involving a specific gene, called SLC6A4, in 132 adolescents aged between 11 and 15 for a period of two years. During an MRI scan, it was found that people from poor backgrounds accumulated greater quantities of a chemical tag on or near the gene that made their amygdala more responsive to fearful faces. “The biggest risk factor we have currently for depression is a family history of the disorder. Our new work reveals one of the mechanisms by which such familial risk may be manifested or expressed in a particular group of vulnerable individuals during adolescence,” said study co-author Professor Douglas Williamson.

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