Longitudinal Assessment of Methylation Profiles in a Multi-ethnic Population of Children and Adolescents
Colter Mitchell1, Jonah Fisher1, Jessica Faul1, Erin Ware1, Lisa Schneper2, John Dou1, Kelly Bakulski1, Daniel Notterman2
1University of Michigan, 2Princeton University
Linking social inequalities in deleterious exposures (e.g. pollution, violence, malnutrition) by race, ethnicity, and SES to later health inequalities is a vital social and health research effort in order to improve the overall population health. Epigenetics—modifications to the genome that are not changes in nucleotide sequence—holds great promise as a potential indicator of contextual effects, potentially uncovering  health inequalities long before the health outcomes are observable. The lack of large, multi-ethnic, population-based studies of children has resulted in several critical barriers for social epigenetic work. This paper uses a subsample of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study to examine the largest longitudinal, multiethnic study of child-teen (ages 9-15) epigenetics (n=2002).  Only 13-15% of measures change enough to warrant examination as potential biological mediators of context for this age group. The amount of change is  4-5 times higher for teens of color suggesting potential use in social/health inequality research.