COLUMBUS , Ohio The chronic stress that spouses and children develop while caring for Alzheimer's disease patients may shorten the caregivers' lives by as much as four to eight years, a new study suggests.
The research also provides concrete evidence that the effects of chronic stress can be seen both at the genetic and molecular level in chronic caregivers' bodies.
The findings, reported this month by researchers from Ohio State University and the federal National Institute of Aging, were published in the Journal of Immunology.
These are the latest results from a nearly three-decade-long program at Ohio State investigating the links between psychological stress and a weakened immune status. Previous studies have examined medical students, newlyweds, divorced spouses, widows, widowers and long-married couples, in each case, looking for physiological effects caused by psychological stress.
In their recent study, Ronald Glaser, a professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics, and Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, a professor of psychology and psychiatry, teamed with Nan-ping Weng and his research group from the National Institute of Aging.
Earlier work by other researchers had shown that mothers caring for chronically ill children developed changes in their chromosomes that effectively amounted to several years of additional aging among those caregivers.
That work, remarkable as it was, looked only at a broad community of immune cells without identifying the specific immune components responsible for the changes. The Ohio State-NIA team wanted to identify the exact cells involved in the changes, as well as the mechanisms that caused them.
They focused on telomeres, areas of genetic material on the ends of a cell's chromosomes. Over time, as a cell divides, those telomeres shorten, losing genetic instructions. An enzyme telomerase normally works to repair that damage to the chromosome,
|Contact: Ron Glaser|
Ohio State University