Study Links Epigenetic Changes to Historic Trauma in Alaska Native Communities

Researchers investigated the relationship between historical traumatic events experienced by Alaska Native communities and epigenetic markers on genes that previous studies have linked to trauma. The new study found a similar pattern among Alaska Native participants, with specific epigenetic differences observed in those who reported experiencing the most intense symptoms of distress when reflecting on historic losses. The study also found that individuals who strongly identified with their Alaska Native heritage and participated in cultural activities generally reported better well-being. The new findings were published on September 8, 2023 in the International Journal of Health Equity. The open-access article is titled “Association Between Gene Methylation and Experiences of Historical Trauma in Alaska Native Peoples.” The study is the result of a close collaboration between the scientists and members of two Alaska Native communities. The Native Nations guided the design and interpretation of the study and retain control of all of the data, in accordance with principles of Indigenous data sovereignty, said Ripan Malhi, PhD, a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and corresponding author of the new study. 

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