September 16, 2011
Science Daily/University of California - Irvine
Young adults whose mothers experienced psychological trauma during their pregnancies show signs of accelerated aging, a new study has found. The researchers discovered that this prenatal exposure to stress affected the development of chromosome regions that control cell aging processes.
The researchers discovered that this prenatal exposure to stress affected the development of chromosome regions that control cell aging processes. The study results, which appear online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, point to the importance of maternal health and well-being during pregnancy.
"Our previous research on prenatal stress exposure has shown its effects on long-term metabolic, immune, endocrine and cognitive function," said the paper's lead author, Dr. Pathik D. Wadhwa, UCI professor of psychiatry & human behavior, obstetrics & gynecology, pediatrics, and epidemiology. "But this is the first to show the impact of prenatal stress on cell aging in humans, and it sheds light on an important biological pathway underlying the developmental origins of adult disease risk."
"These results indicate that stress exposure in intrauterine life is a significant predictor of adult telomere length -- even after accounting for other established prenatal and postnatal influences on telomere length," said Sonja Entringer, UCI assistant professor of pediatrics and first author on the paper.
A rapidly emerging body of human and animal research indicates that intrauterine conditions play an important role not only in all aspects of fetal development and health across gestation and birth, but also in a wide range of physical and mental health outcomes over an individual's entire lifespan.