More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Research uncovers the genetic fingerprint of loneliness
September 13, 2007

People who experience chronically high levels of loneliness show gene-expression patterns that differ markedly from those of people who don't feel lonely, according to a new molecular analysis in the journal Genome Biology.

The findings suggest that feelings of social isolation are linked to alterations in immune system activity, which result in increased inflammatory signalling within the body. This is the first study to show an alteration in genome-wide transcriptional activity linked to a social epidemiological risk factor. It provides a molecular framework for understanding why social factors are linked to an increased risk of diseases where inflammation is thought to be a factor, such as heart disease, infection and cancer.

It is already known that a person's social environment can affect their health, with those who are socially isolated suffering from higher all-cause mortality, and higher rates of cancer, infection and heart disease. Researchers are trying to determine whether these adverse health consequences result from of reduced social resources (e.g., physical or economic assistance) or from the biological impact of social isolation on the function of the human body. "What this study shows us," said lead author Dr. Steven Cole, of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine, "is that the biological impact of social isolation reaches down into some of our most basic internal processes - the activity of our genes."

In their study, Dr. Cole and colleagues at UCLA and the University of Chicago used DNA microarrays to survey the activity of all known human genes in white blood cells from 14 individuals in the Chicago Health, Aging and Social Relations Study. Six participants scored in the top 15% of the UCLA Loneliness Scale (a widely used measure of loneliness that was developed in the 1970s), the others scored in the bottom 15%. The researchers found 209 transcripts were differentially expressed between the two groups, with 78 being overexpressed and 131 underexpressed. "The leukocyte transcriptome appears to be remodelled in chronically lonely individuals," said Dr. Cole.

Genes overexpressed in high-lonely individuals included many involved in immune system activation and inflammation. However, several key gene sets were underexpressed, including those involved in antiviral responses and antibody production. Bioinformatics analyses identified some of the biological signalling pathways that shaped these differences in gene expression, including reduced activity of the anti-inflammatory glucocorticoid pathway and the pro-inflammatory NF-κB/Rel pathway. "These findings provide molecular targets for our efforts to block the adverse health effects of social isolation," said Dr. Cole.

"In this study, changes in immune cell gene expression were specifically linked to the subjective experience of social distance," said Dr. Cole. "The differences we observed were independent of other known risk factors for inflammation, such as health status, age, weight, and medication use. The changes were even independent of the objective size of a person's social network. What counts, at the level of gene expression, is not how many people you know, it's how many you feel really close to over time." In the future, the transcriptional fingerprint identified by Cole and colleagues might become useful as a 'biomarker' to monitor interventions designed to reduce the impact of loneliness on health.

Source: Cole SW, Hawkley LC, Arevalo JM, et al. Social regulation of gene expression in humans: glucocorticoid resistance in the leukocyte transcriptome. Genome Biol. 2007; In press.
 

Similar threads

New Study Sheds Light on Why Some People Gain Weight Easier Than Others 2019-01-28 ...Major new research from the University of Cambridge has provided evidence that we’re not as in control of our weight as we like to think we are. Professor of Metabolism and Medicine Sadaf Farooqi and her colleagues asked 2,000 participants whose BMIs qualified as “thin” to submit saliva samples in order to analyze their DNA, and asked them questions regarding their lifestyle habits and general health. Her...
Replies
0
Views
833
And -- in theory -- research results (including those that have not translated yet into treatment) can help one be more self-compassionate/accepting and avoid self-stigmatization, etc. With OCD research, it's also a reminder for me that I have to work on my mental health daily/habitually.
Replies
5
Views
12K
Summary Previous studies of risk for autism spectrum disorders appear to have underestimated the contributions of genetics. Recent analyses indicate that 83-98% of risk is based on genetics. As studies have shown time and time again, it has nothing to do with vaccines. Autism is essentially a genetic disorder. ~ David Baxter Genetic Factors Account for the Majority of Autism Risk by Megan Brooks, Medscape September 27, 2017 Source JAMA. Published online September 26, 2017. Abstract
Replies
0
Views
9K
Scientists first to use genetic engineering technique to investigate Tourette's Medical Xpress September 25, 2017 Scientists at Rutgers University-New Brunswick are the first to use a genetic engineering technique to create brain cells from the blood cells of individuals in a three-generation family with Tourette syndrome to help determine what causes the disease. "This is so important to the future research of Tourette's and other neuropsychiatric disorders because before this technique...
Replies
0
Views
7K
Wendy, Take the time you need, and provide your son the information and support at the level and degree he needs at that given moment. As long as he knows that Mom has an "open door" to help him as he needs it, he'll benefit from what you do. In the meantime, know that there are resources available to you when you need them, and that we are here to help. I would also urge you to view the YouTube videos that are referenced in the article I provided you to gain a better understanding of...
Replies
8
Views
8K
Top