USC/UCLA Pilot Funding Supports Study on Epigenetic Profiles, Biological Aging

Lauren Schmitz received a pilot project award from the USC/UCLA Center on Biodemography and Population Health (P30AG017265) for the study “Early Life Adversity Associations with Later Life Epigenetic Profiles: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).”

Epigenetic clocks have been widely used to predict disease risk in multiple tissues or cells. Their success as a measure of biological aging has prompted research on the connection between social adversity and epigenetic pathways of aging across the life course. However, when examining childhood adversity, many studies have used parental education or occupation to measure childhood disadvantage and/or have not examined the long reach of socio-emotional or physical abuse or trauma on epigenetic profiles at older ages.

For her new project, Schmitz and co-author Teresa Seeman will leverage new data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) on socio-emotional and physical adverse experiences in participants’ lives before the age of 18 to examine whether greater exposure to early life adversity in childhood is associated with adult epigenetic profiles that are indicative of accelerated biological aging.

According to Schmitz, a better understanding of the relationship between early life adversity and epigenetic aging may lend insight into the specific social and behavioral mechanisms that influence differences in health and disease across older adult populations.