Meta study: Abused children age faster
Research at Duke University in Durham has found out through research that abused children, who have often experienced physical violence, suffer from a faster aging process. Due to the severe external influences, the telomeres, i.e. the protective caps of the carriers of the genetic material, are permanently damaged. This shortens the protective effect of the genetic information.
10 percent of children are subjected to physical abuse
According to the German Child Protection Association, around 10 percent of children in Germany are exposed to “regularly severe physical shocks”. This means that around 1.2 million children, some of whom have had to deal with severe violence, up to the age of 14. In addition to the psychological consequences that almost always go hand in hand with the abuse, those affected suffer from the physical consequences for a lifetime. A study by researchers under five to ten-year-old children showed that the use of violence provoked a shortened telomere. These are generally considered to be signs of advanced human aging. As a result, there is an increased risk of disease and shorter life expectancy.
Protective function of the cells
The genetic information of humans is anchored in the core in all body cells, in the chromosomes. In science, the structure ends are called telomeres. Although these do not contain any instructions for the creation of control molecules or proteins, they consist of nucleotides. These contain the same building blocks as the genes themselves. During cell division, the DNA is copied and new DNA strands are formed on the telomeres. There is always a loss of nucleotides. Without this function at the ends, genetic genetic information would be lost with each cell division. According to popular research opinion, this process is responsible for the aging of the cells. If the telomeres are used up after a large number of cell divisions, the genetic information is attacked. As a result, damaging cells are formed.
Some scientific work suggests that smoking, unhealthy eating, excessive alcohol consumption or permanent stress, for example, accelerate the aging process described. Other studies also showed that child's lack of emotion or social neglect leads to accelerated aging. The research team led by Idan Shalev from Duke University in Durham can now confirm this previous study work.
Faster aging process due to neglect and experiences of violence
In their meta-analysis, the scientists used the data from a long-term study of the development of children from Great Britain. The total of 236 subjects were born in the periods 1994 and 195. In the fifth and tenth year of life, DNA samples were taken from the children. These were then examined in the laboratory and compared. During their studies, parents were asked about their upbringing and their careers. It turned out that some children suffered from the effects of violence.
The subsequent analysis showed that around 42 percent of the children experienced victims of bullying, social neglect, mental and physical abuse or domestic violence at times. In contrast to the other children, these children also showed major changes in the genome. The telomeres had shortened the period of the last five years significantly more than among peers who had not had any such negative experiences. In addition, "there was a depressing dose effect," the researchers write in the study report. The more violent and ongoing the abuse, the more the telomeres had shortened. This means that the children's cells were exposed to a major aging process.
Probably excessive immune reactions responsible
The exact context that leads to this effect has not yet been finally clarified, as the scientific team emphasized. However, they suspect that the use of violence causes an excessive immune response. This in turn gnaws at the ends of the structure. But it is also possible that free radicals are responsible for the reaction. If people are exposed to increased stress, the same processes are started. Other studies have already shown that there is a higher risk of illness from trauma. Child abuse can also be detected years later with scars in the brain. (sb)
Childhood Brain Damage
Child abuse leaves scars in the brain
Higher risk of illness from trauma
Therapy for mentally ill children
Source: Idan Shalev (Duke University in Durham) et al.:Molecular Psychiatry, doi: 10.1038 / mp.2016351a2cc0b08c03: Gerd Altmann / pixelio.de