Despite being microscopic in size and packing all the information that makes you and I who we are, DNA is actually fairly fragile and can be easily affected by the outside world. We've known for years that cigarette smoke and other contaminants can cause genetic mutations, but a recent study published by a team of prominent biologists and social researchers is proving that financial stress may actually affect your health at the genetic level.
The team investigated a wide cross-section of Detroit citizens, primarily poor and lower-middle class residents (primarily Caucasian, African American, and Latino in origin). From these participants, the team collected DNA samples and specifically examined the telomeres attached to them. Telomeres are the tiny caps fixed at the ends of every DNA strand, just like the plastic protectors at the ends of your shoelaces. What these caps do for DNA is protect them from premature aging and deterioration. Research has shown that although when you deal with constant stress, those telomeres begin to break down and shorten.
Once they shorten, you become susceptible to a variety of serious health risks including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. So to put it simply, the longer your telomeres stay, the healthier you will be and then the longer you should live (barring accidents).
The study's researchers discovered that although Detroit's lower-income residents, regardless of race, have significantly shorter telomeres than the rest of the country, on average. Given the massive economic downturn that Detroit has faced within the past ten years, Detroit's citizens have been living under socioeconomic pressures that far exceeded most of the rest of the country.
Dealing with negative social perceptions, exposure to unsafe environments, and other factors can all contribute to your DNA's protectors legally breaking down over time – leaving you more vulnerable to genetic disorders that can be triggered by mutations in your own genetic code.
Scientists are tracking these mutations and are working on methods to reverse them – but the science is not quite there yet. That being said, it may soon be possible to revert our DNA back to its original, uncorrupted state. Of course, to do this, we'd need to know what it originally was, which is why it's becoming increasingly important to store your DNA as early as possible.
DNA storage allows you to keep a copy of your genetic code intact for years on end, at which point, it is assumed there will be new therapies available to repair damage and also use your stored sample as a point of comparison.