Early experience linked to chronic diseases in later life
Aug 4, 2009 - 3:01:22 PM

Experiences in early life stick to people into adulthood and may render them more susceptible to many of the chronic diseases of ageing, according to a new study.

A team led by University of British Columbia - researchers Gregory Miller and Michael Kobor performed genome-wide profiling in 103 healthy adults aged 25-40 years.

Participants were either low or high in early-life socioeconomic circumstances related to income, education and occupation during the first five years of life.

'It seems to be the case that if people are raised in a low socioeconomic family, their immune cells are constantly vigilant for threats from the environment,' said Miller.

'This is likely to have consequences for their risk for late-life chronic diseases.'

But the two groups were similar in socioeconomic status - at the time the genome assessment was performed and also had similar lifestyle practices like smoking and drinking habits.

Their study shows that among subjects with low early-life socioeconomic circumstances, there was evidence that genes involved with inflammation were selectively 'switched-on' at some point.

Researchers believe this is because the cells of low-SES individuals were not effectively responding to a hormone called cortisol that usually controls inflammation.

'We've identified some 'biologic residue' of people's early-life experience that sticks with them into adulthood,' says Miller, associate professor of psychology at the UBC.

'The study suggests that experiences get under the skin,' says Kobor, assistant professor in the UBC department of medical genetics, according to an UBC release.

These findings are slated for publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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