Epigenetic Effects of Childhood

Living conditions in early life can have lasting, widespread effects on DNA methylation.

Oct 21, 2011
Cristina Luiggi

FLICKR, MICHAEL 1952

Wealth, housing conditions, and the occupation of a person’s parents during childhood are associated with widespread differences in DNA methylation later in life, a new study led by a group of researchers from Canada and the UK found. Analyzing the blood samples of 40 people from the UK who were born in 1958, the researchers found over 6,000 gene control regions (including 1,252 gene promoters) that showed significant differences in DNA methylation patterns depending on the standard of living conditions during the subject’s childhood. In contrast, about half the methylation differences in gene promoters (545) were associated with living conditions during adulthood.

“The current research represents just a beginning because it cannot tell us precisely when in early life these epigenetic patterns arose or what the long-term health effects will be,” author Chris Power, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at the UCL Institute of Child Health said in a press release. The findings were published yesterday (October 20) in the International Journal of Epidemiology.