If you know even a little bit about psychoanalysis, you’ll know that your childhood experiences can impact you for the rest of your life.
But did you know that it can also change you genetically?
Researchers have been able to accurately predict whether some of our genes responsible for regulating inflammation are altered by key childhood events, suggesting that our experiences during childhood could cause certain illnesses we have in later life.
A team of scientists from Northwestern University looked for signs of epigenetic changes in over one hundred genes associated with inflammation in order to examine the links between childhood environments and differences in inflammation processes.
Our genome’s DNA sequence is largely locked in at conception. However, it’s been known for some time that individual genes can continue to be modified through epigenetic processes.
As reported by ScienceAlert, one of the more prominent forms of these epigenetic processes is methylation, which involves a methyl (CH3) group being added to the DNA’s structure in such a way that it interferes with its function.
Understanding this process has completely transformed how we understand our genetic blueprints.
It used to be that we thought our biology completely controlled our destiny. Now, we understand that our environment can have transformative impacts on what happens in our lives.
“We could have genes in our bodies that might lead to some bad outcomes or adverse health outcomes, but if those genes are silent, if they’re turned off due to epigenetic processes, that can be a good thing,” the study’s lead author Thom McDade explains to Lorena Infante Lara at Univision.com.
The study examined just under 500 participants from the Philippines and analyzed data that went back to the early 1980s. Blood collected in 2005 was used to analyze over one hundred genes that help to regulate inflammation.
The study found that the methylation of nine of these genes had a close relationship with a number of childhood variables, including whether a parent was absence, socio-economic indicators and even the climate in which a person was born.
It’s a fascinating as it provides empirical evidence that our childhood experiences can be stamped into our DNA, having a large impact on many parts of our later lives.
It also adds to the growing body of evidence that highlights the diverse ways changes to our immune system has an impact on our health.