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New research shows that children who have a tough time growing up are old beyond their years. Its also extended to children who have suffered violence at a young age, and as it appears they could actually suffer from premature ageing of their DNA.

Digging deep, researchers look at the end of all the chromosomes found in our body, and they are strands of DNA called telomeres. Their purpose is to keep the chromosomes, which are coiled of DNA themselves from unravelling.

When a cell divides, the telomeres chain gets shorter, which limits how many times a cell can continue to divide. A bunch of recent studies found a close link in the shortening of telomeres with ageing, which in fact, is connected to physical stresses to biological age. Smoking, drinking and obesity also accelerate the shortening of telomeres.

The study carried out at the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy suggests that children who experience acts of violence at an early age also see premature shortening of their telomeres.

The study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, uses a data set collected from 1,100 families with twins, who have been followed from birth and are now 18. DNA testing and interviews reveal differing histories of exposure to violence in children. It could range from domestic violence to frequent bullying or some other physical maltreatment.

Children with a history of two or more kinds of violent exposures in their past have significantly more telomeres loss than other children. Shorter telomeres are linked with shorter lifespans. Terrie Moffitt, one of the researchers, explains to Medical Express:

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Some of the billions of dollars spent on diseases of aging such as diabetes, heart disease and dementia might be better invested in protecting children from harm."

[Molecular Psychiatry via Medical Express]