Study: The horrors of genocide have changed the genetic makeup of Rwandan women Science and Technology | The latest discoveries and studies of DW Arabic | DW

A team of researchers in the Genome Studies Program at the University of South Florida and the Center for Global Health and Infectious Diseases Research in the United States has come a long way in addressing the causes of mental health problems suffered by some Rwandans as a result of the genocide campaigns against the Tutsis in 1994.

In the first study of its kind, the research team, which included researcher Monica Auden and researcher Derek Wildman of the College of Public Health, analyzed the genome map, that is, the complete genetic material of Tutsi women who were pregnant and living in Rwanda. has. during the genocide, as well as the children to whom they gave birth.They compared the DNA of this slide with that of other Tutsi women and their children, who lived in other parts of the world at the time of the ethnic cleansing.

During the study, which falls within the framework of epigenetics, which is concerned with the study of genetic mutations caused by external causes, the research team concluded that the atrocities of genocide are associated with chemical changes in the DNA of women that through that difficult period and their children, and they added that many Some of these changes have occurred in genes that increase the risk of developing neurological diseases such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. These results suggest that, unlike conventional genetic mutations, genetic changes caused by epigenetics for chemical reasons cause rapid responses and are passed on through generations.

“Epigenetics refers to stable chemical changes that occur in the DNA and help control gene functions, and these changes may occur in a narrow period of time,” said researcher Monica Odin in statements reported by the website “Scitech Daily”, which specializes in scientific research “This study has shown that exposure to the horrors of genocide in the prenatal period is associated with an epigenetic pattern that influences the genetic functions of the newborn.”

The research team, which included researcher Clarice Musanabajanwa of the University of Rwanda and colleagues, achieved these results after studying DNA extracted from blood samples from 59 people, half of whom were directly or as fetuses to genocide-related traumas such as rape, escape exposed. from captivity, or witnessing Bloody murders, attacks with firearms, or examination of corpses or human remains.

This recent study is part of a broader research initiative called “Human Heredity and Health in Africa” ​​(H3), which is the “Human Genetics and Health in Africa” ​​initiative, which is funded by national research institutes and aims to empowering scientists specializing in genome research.In the brown continent, improving their capacity for scientific independence and providing the necessary infrastructure to enhance the study of genetics across the continent, in order to collect data covering the world’s genomic sciences serve better.

Researcher Wildman says, “The Rwandan people involved in this study, and indeed the entire Rwandan community, really want to find out what happened to them, because post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological problems to which they are exposed require answers to know what the causes of those feelings that they suffer and suffer from. ” .

Although this study focuses specifically on the effects of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, it confirms previous studies showing that events experienced by the mother during pregnancy may have long-term effects on fetuses, and that these symptoms may not occur except in early stages. Later in life, the study also highlights the need to focus efforts to protect the psycho-emotional health of pregnant women.

The study team indicated that people who suffered the horrors of genocide while still themselves fetuses were starting to have children from their roots, and they hope to know if these psychological problems they suffer from will also extend to the third generation. . Researchers are waiting for more DNA samples to determine exactly how trauma or extreme stress can lead to certain mental disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

AAJ / MS (DPA)

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