Socioeconomic status and health prospects have been closely associated for some time. Previous theories have established the obvious impacts of poverty on nutrition, stress and available exercise time as the leading drivers for this correlation. However, a recent study led by Thomas McDade of Northwestern University has found that poverty can, in fact, leave impressions on DNA, implementing large scale epigenetic changes on the human genome.

Using the Illumina HumanMethylation450 Bead Chip, the researchers analyzed the DNA Methylation patterns in the leukocytes of 489 study participants. The socioeconomic status (SES) of each participant was established at infancy and adulthood, through an assessment of the participants’ income, assets and education. Genome-wide analysis was then used to identify CpG sites (sequences of DNA frequently found in the promoter region of genes) whose methylation patterns were significantly affected by SES.

After adjusting the results from the genome-wide analysis, McDade and his team found that over 2,500 sites in more than 1500 genes were significantly affected in their methylation status by SES. A low SES led to the increased methylation of 1,777 sites and decreased methylation at 769 when compared to high SES.

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