Published On: Sun, Aug 23rd, 2015

Children of Jewish Holocaust survivors inherited their trauma, Mount Sinai study says

Nazi Social Security

Holocaust survivors pass on trauma through their genes, making their descendants more susceptible to PTSD and other stress disorders, according to new research.

This phenomena is a known fact to mental health experts, but now medical research has caught up with this reality. Scientists at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center have tracked down the genetic changes in which the trauma is forever inscribed.

The Guardian reports researchers looked at 32 Jewish men and women who survived traumatic experiences at the hands of Nazis during World War II and their children.

They found that parents passed their life experiences onto their offspring by modifying  their genetics in a process called “epigenetic inheritance.” In addition to affecting how well children of trauma survivors cope with stress, these genetic changes could also put them at increased risk of obesity and hypertension, according to Scientific American.

The Guardian explains that people’s genes are modified by their environment through chemical tags that attach themselves to DNA, and researchers found these tags on the same part of the stress-hormone gene in both Holocaust survivors and their children.

According to Scientific American, the children had less cortisol—a hormone that helps recovery from trauma—and higher levels of an enzyme that destroys cortisol.

Researchers aren’t clear exactly how gene changes are inherited as chemical tags were previously assumed to be cleared before DNA is passed on to offspring during fertilization.

READ MORE An old letter led to a grim Holocaust discovery.

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