UPDATE, AUG. 2, 5:24 P.M.: Dr. Pathik D. Wadhwa (pictured here) was lead author of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper describing UCI's research into stressed-out moms and their faster-aging children.
It's a wonder Wadhwa has time to write anything given all he specializes in at UCI: professor of psychiatry & human behavior, obstetrics & gynecology, pediatrics and epidemiology.
Besides the aforementioned Dr. Sonja Entringer of UCI, UC San Francisco's Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Elissa S. Epel and Jue Lin and German researchers Robert Kumsta, Dirk H. Hellhammer (best rock god name ever!) and Stefan Wust contributed to the study.
Speaking of rock stars, Blackburn shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for her seminal discoveries in the field of telomere biology.
The latest research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Barney & Barbro Fund.
ORIGINAL POST, AUG. 2, 2:33 P.M.: Now we know why little Johnny had a beard by junior high.
It's his stressed-out mom's fault.
New research from UC Irvine shows children age more rapidly if their mothers experienced high levels of social or psychological stress during pregnancy.
The first results ever to tie the long-term impact of prenatal stress on cellular aging in human offspring are reported in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Dr. Sonja Entringer--an assistant professor of pediatrics at UCI's School of Medicine, investigator with UCI's Development, Health and Disease Research Program and a 2006 psychobiology Ph.D. from the University of Trier in Germany--and her colleagues on campus examined the DNA of healthy 25-year-old men and women who were born to mothers who had experienced unusual levels of stress during pregnancy. The cells of their test subjects looked older than expected.
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How much older? On average, the men had telomeres--a region of repetitive DNA sequences at the end of a chromosome that protects the end of the chromosome from deterioration or from fusion with neighboring chromosomes (duh, everyone knows that)--typical of 28-year-olds born to mothers with less stressful pregnancies. And the women's telomeres more closely resembled those of 30-year-olds.
The UCI research found that a fetus' exposure to maternal stress effects adult telomere length, with more stress translating to shortened telomeres in the women's children. Every time cells divide, telomeres get incrementally shorter. The shorter your telomeres become, the faster your cells age.
This goes a long way in explaining why a certain trailer-park honey developed to Playmate of the Year proportions by the middle of seventh grade. But the greater attention she received while young would be tempered later in life by possible health problems. Shortened telomeres are linked to cancer, diabetes, dementia and coronary heart disease.
Thanks, mom (or the dad who likely stressed her out).