High stress 'can alter gene and DNA activity'
16 August 2012 16:37 in Scientific Developments/Breakthroughs
Acute stress can alter the activity of certain genes, putting people at a heightened risk of further health problems.
This is according to a new research project from Ruhr-University Bochum, which examined gene segments which are relevant to biological stress regulation, in order to judge why stressful experiences and psychological trauma in early life are associated with long-term altered DNA methylation.
It was shown that acute stress can cause a significant increase in methylation of the oxytocin receptor gene, which is linked directly to the production of a hormone regulating stress levels.
According to the scientists, this shows that these epigenetic changes may demonstrate an important link between stress and chronic diseases such as cancer and depression.
Professor Dr Gunther Meinlschmidt, of the clinic of psychosomatic medicine and psychotherapy at Ruhr-University Bochum's LWL University Hospital, said: "We hope to identify more complex epigenetic stress patterns in future and thus to be able to determine the associated risk of disease. This could provide information on new approaches to treatment and prevention."
NHS figures show that mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression are the reason for one in every five GP visits.
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