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Presented By: Institute for Social Research

The Scars of Life Course Trauma on the Immune System

PSC Brown Bag Series

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The Scars of Life Course Trauma on the Immune System
by Grace Noppert

Monday, January 31
12-1:10 pm ET via Zoom

We are currently observing an unprecedented rise in childhood trauma from COVID-19—specifically related to the loss and disruption of caregiving. Yet, we know little about the impact or persistence of early life trauma on later life immune function. Using nationally representative data on older adults from the U.S. Health and Retirement Study, we examined the association between experiencing parental death or parental separation before the age of 16 years and four markers of immune function in late life: high sensitive C-reactive Protein (CRP), Interleukin-6 (IL-6), soluble Tumor Necrosis Factor (sTNFR), and immune response to cytomegalovirus (CMV) measured by the level of Immunoglobulin G (IgG). We also examined racial and ethnic differences in these associations. We found that racialized minority individuals were more likely to experience parental death/separation in early life compared to non-Hispanic Whites and had poorer immune function in later life. We also found consistent associations between parental death or separation and poor immune function in later life measured by both CMV and IL-6 across all race/ethnic subgroups. This presentation will discuss the growing body of evidence that early life trauma becomes embedded in the architecture of the immune system with consequences for health throughout the life course.

Dr. Noppert's work lies at the intersection of biology, sociology, and epidemiology. Her work seeks to explain how social processes become biologically embedded with implications for health across the life course. She began her work as an infectious disease epidemiologist examining health disparities in tuberculosis (TB) in the U.S. Since then, her work has focused on uncovering the social underpinning of a range of infectious diseases, both established (e.g., TB) and emergent (e.g., SARS-CoV-2). Her current work focuses on sociobiological exposures such as persistent viral infections (e.g., CMV, HSV-1, etc.) and how they intersect with the immune system. Understanding the link between social factors, infections, and immune function may hold clues to explaining and disrupting persistent health inequities across the life course.

Michigan Population Studies Center (PSC) Brown Bag seminars highlight recent research in population studies and serve as a focal point for building our research community.
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Livestream Information

January 31, 2022 (Monday) 12:00pm

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