How Does Stress Affect Us at the Molecular Level?

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There's a really exciting frontier in science, which is understanding how emotional response is and the stress response, are affecting our bodies all the way down to the cellular level. When you think about our DNA, you can't change our genes, but that cell system is so sensitive to protect the DNA.

There are all sorts of sensitive parts of the epigenome, all the proteins that surround the DNA that are sensing danger in the environment. And so we now know, that chronic stress can influence gene expression, it can also influence the epigenome, the proteins that turn genes on and off.

And what I focus on this are the DNA parts that protect the chromosomes, the telomeres at the end of the chromosomes.We now know that stress has an effect on the telomeres, damaging them and shortening them making them more vulnerable to catastrophic cellular events. So when we are under chronic stress, we can't repair those telomere cups and keep them long and when they get too short then that's real trouble for our DNA.

There can be cell signals that tell the cell to either stop dividing and then the cell gets old and age and can't do its job, and secretes chromosomes inside the cells, something tells the cell to die early in apoptosis. And lastly, you can get mutations and that cell will go on dividing but then you develop cancer.

So the telomere really protects the cell..