EARLY LIFE STRESS CAN MODIFY DNA EXPRESSION, A STUDY FINDS
19, May 2019
Prelims level : Science & Technology Mains level : Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management (GS3L)
Why in News:
- A Bengaluru-based group of researchers has discovered a link between stress during early life and problematic, externalising behaviour in the DNA of children of alcoholic parents.
Biology and Adversity:
Early adversity is known to have several biological effects. One of this is DNA methylation
— a process by which chemical changes occur to the DNA molecule. It also affects the functioning of what is called the hypothalamus-pituitary axis.
- The hypothalamus-pituitary axis is a major neuroendocrine system that controls reactions to stress, regulates digestion, the immune system, mood and emotions, sexuality and energy storage and expenditure.
- In normal individuals, it is expected that the level of cortisol spikes during stress.
- The study is unique in that it carries out a detailed assessment of HPA axis function by cortisol estimation during stress and also estimates chemical effects due to early adversity at the DNA level.
The study concludes that children of alcoholics
might have a compromised HPA axis and epigenetic changes at the DNA level possibly resulting in increased externalising behaviour.