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Child Abuse May Alter Gene Structure

by Darlene Barriere - Webmaster
(Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada)


Child abuse victims who have committed suicide may have done so as a result of chemical changes in their brain genes that were caused by suffering childhood abuse.


Researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec found significant chemical differences between the genes in the brains of men who had committed suicide and the genes in the brains of men who died but not by suicide. All 13 suicide victims of the study had suffered childhood abuse. What researchers discovered were differences in the way the DNA code is used.

DNA sequencing that we inherit from our parents remains the same throughout our lifetime. This sequencing can be found identically throughout the cells in our bodies. However, during gestation (pregnancy), a chemical coating called methylation is acquired. This coating creates marks in the genes of our bodies as a result of our life experiences, especially those in early childhood.

Researchers are now comparing the results of the suicide brains of those known to have suffered childhood abuse to those who did not suffer child abuse, in order to establish whether it was the childhood abuse or the suicide itself that caused the markings.

The significance of this discovery—and the additional research being conducted into causality—is that scientists may be able to develop a blood test to identify the chemical changes, which could lead to treatments to reverse this chemical alteration. Such diagnostic tests could ultimately reduce the number of suicides caused by child abuse and the resulting stress responses.

I find the possibilities of this research very encouraging.

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