Human chromosomes (gray) capped by telomeres (white)
By U.S. Department of Energy Human Genome Program.SierraSciSPA at en.wikipedia [Public domain or Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Does a Stressful Childhood Shorten Your Chromosomes?

Kids who grow up in tough situations may have shorter telomeres, caps that protect each individual chromosome from damage. Researchers who studied 40 9-year-old African-American boys found that those whose mothers changed partners more than once had telomeres 40% shorter than those whose moms didn’t, New Scientist reports. Similar results were found in situations where moms didn’t go to college and where harsh parenting is involved. The findings, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that stress may lead to telomere shortening, which has been associated with age-related illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease and hypertension.

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