May 26, 2022

Mawazo Writing Africa

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Genocide trauma changed victims’ DNA, says study

The traumatic experiences of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda may have led to changes in the DNA of the victims and the children born to women who were pregnant at the time.

A study published on January 10 in Epigenomics found that the trauma was linked to chemical changes in the DNA of women exposed to the genocide and their offspring.

The genocide that killed about a million people , mostly Tutsi, left a public health burden of post-traumatic stress (PTSD) and other mental disorders in Rwanda.

In this first-of-its-kind study, scientists examined the genomes of Tutsi women who were pregnant and in Rwanda at the time of the genocide and their offspring compared to those of concurrently pregnant Tutsi women living in other parts of the world.

The Uni Versity of South Florida in collaboration with the University of Rwanda found that many modifications in the gene that contribute to the risk of mental disorders such as PTSD and depression. These results suggest that, unlike gene mutations, these chemical modifications of epigenetics can have a rapid response to trauma across generations.

Epigenetics is the study of how behavior and environment can cause changes that affect functioning influenced by genes, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unlike genetic changes, epigenetic changes are reversible and don’t alter your DNA sequence, but can alter how your body reads a DNA sequence.

Explained by Prof Monica Uddin of the University’s College of Public Health of South Florida Chemical modifications made to DNA can occur in a shorter time frame than is required for changes to the underlying DNA sequence of genes.

“Our study found that prenatal exposure to genocide with was linked to an epigenetic pattern that suggests reduced gene function in the offspring,” she said.

The team came to their conclusion after reviewing DNA from blood samples from 59 people — about half were personal Subjected to trauma associated with genocide, such as rape, evasion of capture, witnessing murder or aggravated assault with a weapon, and killed and mutilated to see dead bodies or to be exposed to genocide in the womb.

“The Rwandans participating in this study and the community as a whole really want to know what happened to them because there is al ot of PTSD and other mental health disorders in Rwanda, and people want answers as to why they are having these feelings and issues,” said Prof. Derek Wildman of the University of South Florida.

While this study looks specifically into Referring to the impact of the 1994 genocide, it supports previous studies showing that what happens to a fetus during pregnancy can have long-term effects, which is why the safety and emotional and psychological well-being of pregnant women need to be protected.

< p>The researchers found that people who were in the womb during the genocide are beginning to have children of their own, and they hope to soon be able to study if this is the case whether or not trauma had epigenetic effects on the third generation.

The landmark study is part of a larger consortium, Human, Heredity & Health in Africa (H3), funded by the National Institutes of Health to empower African scientists in genomics. It aims to strengthen their independence and ability to build the infrastructure needed to improve genetic studies across the continent, and ultimately better collection of human genome data around the world.