Can Parental Stress Impact the Health of Future Generations?

A new review published in Biology Letters of The Royal Society examines the long-term impacts of exposure to stressors during development. The review by Dr. Britt Heidinger, North Dakota State University, Fargo, and Dr. Mark Haussmann, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, looks at whether the effect of stressors on parents lingers to impact the health of their offspring.

Studies have shown that exposure to stressors accelerates the aging process. “When parents are exposed to stressors, the lifespans of their offspring and even grand offspring are often reduced. But why this happens is not well understood,” said Heidinger. The researchers’ paper reviews evidence that telomeres might play an important role in the process.

Telomeres are highly conserved, repetitive sections of DNA at the end of chromosomes. Together with other proteins, telomeres form protective caps at chromosome ends, which function a little bit like the plastic ends on shoelaces, to protect the laces from fraying.

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