Imagine the end of a shoelace – that plastic coating covering the end of the lace. In our bodies we have stands of DNA containing our genes and just like a shoelace the it has an end. That end is called a Telomeres.
Telomeres hold the strand ends together so that the DNA chromosomes can do their job efficiently. (T.A. Science, www.tasciencecom/whatisatelomere) If the telomeres become damaged then the cells in our body cannot do their jobs. So, when you have stress and abuse in a child’s life this can play a huge part in the damaging of the telomere. There are new studies linking the molecular substrates of cells and the stress related aging processes over a lifespan with the deteriorating of the telomeres. When young children experience hardships such as stress, abuse, and or even live in a bad environment.
They likely to have some develop mental health illnesses (Shalev I., Etringer S., Wadhwa P.D.
, Wolkowitz O.M., Puterman E., Lin J.
, and Epel S., 2013). Cawthon (2002) was first to pioneer this new study by measuring the blood cell levels and the rate of mortality with increased controls in the natural observation experimental trials.
The study has evolved into several different outcomes. One of the outcome was that if exposed to stress at a young age in life, the telomeres start to denigrate causing damage to the telomere’s length. The shorter the telomere the increased chance of mental illness. This was the gateway to the new way of measuring the blood leukocytes (Mason P.
, and Perdigones N. 2013). When presented with empirical evidence of stress-related circumstances, i.e.
dealing with childhood trauma at an early age or any form of abuse, caused the shortening of the telomeres and could possibly increase the chance of advanced chronological aging, along with increased disease morbidity and mortality. When the telomere is shortened, it could potentially lead to mental illness in adult years (Shalev I., Etringer S., Wadhwa P.
D., Wolkowitz O.M., Puterman E., Lin J., and Epel S., 2013).
For example, a mother (pregnant with her second child) dealing with her first child who is disabled. She accumulates all that stress and transfer it to the unborn fetus. That fetus now has some deteriorating telomeres.
Therefor this newborn could potentially develop mental illnesses later in life. Certain environmental factors, such as living with parents who are stricken with drug addiction experience huge amount of stress (Mason P.,and Perdigones N.
, 2013). For instance, stressing getting their next meal, dealing with paerental outbursts while high. May result in the chances of mental illness. Some of these behaviors caused by the shortening of the telomeres include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. However, this process may further the negative effects of stress on telomeres.
Studies better understand the mechanisms that govern and regulate telomere biology throughout the life span could inform us on the etiology and the long-term side effects that stress and mental illness cause in the aging process in our ever-growing diverse population (Shalev I., Etringer S., Wadhwa P.D., Wolkowitz O.M.
, Puterman E., Lin J., and Epel S., 2013). This author is able to connect this information to a real-life situation with a young family member. This child is six years old. Her parents were both addicted to drugs.
There drug use while in uterus. Her early life contained continued drug use by both parents, uncertain living arrangements, struggled for food, etc. Eventually, she was removed from parents by state agencies.
Though she now experiences a more stable home life, he exabits behaviors insist with high outputs, aggressive, and lashing out. Fortunately, she is receiving counseling and is doing better. When all of these factors are in play, you may have some degree of mental illness to cope with in life.
Some of the steps that are helping combat theses illnesses are the child therapists. As an adult the world of mental health medicine has come out with different medicines to help cope with the health issues. It could be as simple as changing the environment which the child is in. When you have both nature and nurture in play when you’re talking about children makes it hard to pinpoint either one. As single cause it genetics and environment. If the child’s family history has passed hereditary traits, e.g. schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression.
But if we can help the surrounding environment we can potentially alter the nurture aspect of the genes. We can do this by changing newborn’s environment. So, when this child reaches adult hood, we can potentially change the biology to combat the shortening telomeres and reduce the chances of the hereditary mental illnesses so we can promote a healthy lifestyle and increase the number of people with longer telomeres in adulthood. References Mason, P. and Perdigones, N. (2013) Telomere Biology and Translational Research. Translational Research The journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine (volume 162, issue 6, 333-342) DOI: 10.1016/j.
trsl 2013.08.009 Shalev,I., Entringer, S., Wadhwa,P.D.
, Wolkowitz, O.M., Puterman, E., Lin, J., and Epel, E.S.
(2013) Stress and Telomere Biology: a lifespan prespective. Psychoneuroendrocrinology. DOI: 10116/j.psyneun2013.03.
10 epub: 2013, apr. 29 T.A. Science (http://www.tascience.com/what-is-a-telomere/)