EVERSON RESEARCH GROUP - Investigating the Molecular Links Between Early Life Exposures and Children's Health Outcomes

Epigenetic responses in HPA-axis among children that were abused, at the earliest indication of abuse

A number of studies have shown that individuals that were maltreated as children may have epigenetic differences in genes involved in the HPA-axis later in adulthood. This may be one of mechanisms through which early life adversity and maltreatment can impact health throughout the life-course. In a developing collaboration with Dr. Mary Clyde Pierce at Children’s Lurie Hospital in Chicago, we conducted a prospective, multi-center study of acutely injured children between 0 and 4 yrs old (n=82) that were admitted to the hospital with traumatic injuries (n=82). These injuries were classified by an expert panel as being accidental or abusive. We then tested for differential DNA methylation within the stress response gene, FKBP5, in both blood and buccal cell samples. Check out Dr. Pierce’s presentation about our preliminary findings, which were presented at the recent Pediatric Academic Societies meeting, 2021. We aim to build upon these findings with ongoing and future studies of molecular markers that could help to distinguish between abusive versus accidental injuries, and/or to understand the biological impacts of growing up in a distressed environment.

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