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Jacobs Center for Productive Youth Development

Social Genomics

Social Genomics

Prof. Dr. Michael Shanahan

How do our social circumstances influence the working of our genome? The question may surprise. We often think of the genome as a set of unchanging instructions that determine our behavior and health. In fact, the genome is highly responsive to our standing in society, health behaviors, relationships, and experiences in the family, at school, and at work.

The Social Genomics research area at the Jacobs Center seeks to understand how social forces regulate the genome by drawing on unique data that describe people’s social worlds and that include genetic information. A major theme is how people’s experiences “get under the skin” and change the likelihood of health and well-being.

One such project looks at people’s experiences from early adolescence to mid-adulthood.  We are especially interested in experiences that people had in their homes while they were growing up. A second project looks at how bullying in childhood is related to genetic activity in early adulthood. We focus on physical victimization and social exclusion and how these challenges may have lasting effects at the level of our genes.

Our projects are guided by expertise from sociology, demography, biology, psychology, and statistics, making this an exciting scientific endeavor. And by better understanding connections between society and genetics, we can alert policy-makers to the often-subtle but long-ranging impacts of society on health and well-being.

Recent Publications:

  • Sudharshan Ravi, Michael J. Shanahan, Brandt Levitt, Kathleen Mullan Harris, Steven W. Cole. (In press). Socioeconomic inequalities in early adulthood disrupt the immune transcriptomic landscape via upstream regulators. Scientific Reports.

  • Julien Bodelet, Cecilia Potente, Guillaume Blanc, Justin Chumbley, Hira Imeri, Scott Hofer, Kathleen Harris, Graciela Muniz Terrera, Michael Shanahan. (In press). A Bayesian functional approach to test models of life course epidemiology over continuous time. International Journal of Epidemiology.

  • Shanahan, M., Cole, S., Ravi, S., Chumbley, J., Xu, W., Potente, C., Levitt, B., Bodelet, J., Aiello, A., Gaydosh, L., Harris, K. M. (2022). Socioeconomic inequalities in molecular risk for chronic diseases observed in young adulthood. PNAS 119. PDF (PDF, 1 MB)

  • Potente, C., Chumbley, J., Xu, W., Levitt, B., Cole, S. W., Ravi, S., Bodelet, J.S., Gaydosh, L. Harris, K. M., Shanahan, M. J. (in press). Socioeconomic inequalities characterize molecular risk for aging in young adulthood. American Journal of Epidemiology 

  • Chumbley JR, Xu W, Potente C, Harris KM, Shanahan M. (2021). A Bayesian approach to comparing common models of life course epidemiology. International Journal of Epidemiology. 50(5): 1660-1670 PDF (PDF, 458 KB)

  • Potente, C, Harris, KM, Chumbley, J., Cole, SW, Gaydosh, L., Xu, W., Levitt, B., Shanahan, MJ. (2021). The early life course of body weight and gene expression signatures for disease. American Journal of Epidemiology. 190(8): 1533-1540 PDF (PDF, 219 KB)

  • Cole, SW, Shanahan, MJ, Gaydosh, L., & Harris, KM. (2020). Inflammatory and antiviral gene expression in Add Health: Molecular pathways to social disparities in disease emerge by young adulthood. PNAS, 117 (9), 4601-4608. PDF (PDF, 1 MB)

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