Prize for early career research into maternal effect on telomeres

  • 23 Jul 2019

Telomeres are the caps at the end of your chromosomes that protect your DNA from damage. Telomeres shorten as we age and the rate of telomere shortening depends on genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors. We can see accelerated telomere shortening in individuals experiencing stressful or adverse environments.

At the recent symposium of postdoctoral research at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, Summit 2019, Dr Caroline Walker took top prize for her work, the world’s first investigation into telomere length of New Zealand children.

Watch this profile of Caroline’s work from One News, with more info about the Growing Up in New Zealand study, the largest longitudinal health research study ever undertaken here.

(left: Dr Caroline Walker with AMRF Executive Director Sue Brewster)

(Image: Dr Caroline Walker, left, with AMRF Executive Director Sue Brewster)

She hypothesised that perinatal maternal depression, because of its potential to add stress to unborn children, would be associated with shorter telomeres. Surprisingly, she found the opposite, and maternal depression was positively associated with telomere length. The next step in the research will be to determine if the positive association is a developmental adaptation or an indirect consequence of environmental factors.

“This award will enable me to present this research at the American Society of Human Genetics meeting, the largest genetics conference in the world that routinely attracts over 6,000 scientific attendees each year. This conference is an excellent forum for presenting my research on biological ageing in New Zealand children.”

The AMRF is proud to support young and early career researchers with this award and congratulates all the winners.

Thanks to the FMHS Postdoctoral Society for hosting an excellent event.

Learn more about telomeres

Thanks to Ethan Lowry Photogrpahy for images.

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