Social Epigenomics Research Focused on Minority Health and Health Disparities (R01/R21)

Program Description

The NIMHD social epigenomics research program has been established to 1) advance the science of epigenomics focused on minority health and health disparities, (2) expand our understanding of epigenetic mechanisms by which social factors lead to biological changes that in turn influence health or modify disease risk that may contribute to health disparities, and (3) promote epigenetics research to better diagnose disease risk or resiliency among health disparity populations. Additionally, the program promotes multidisciplinary collaborations that will combine the knowledge and scientific expertise of social scientists, public health researchers and molecular biologists to develop innovative strategies to understand the mechanisms that may create or contribute to the persistence of health disparities.

Social epigenomics is the study of how social experiences affect the genes and our biology. Our experiences do not alter the genetic code itself. However, social experiences may bring about changes in the various molecules that interact with DNA, determining which genes are switched on or off. This biological mechanism for controlling gene expression is called the epigenome. The epigenome can be dynamically altered by social and environmental experiences. Studies of how social factors influence the epigenome hold great promise for understanding how social environments affect minority health and lead to health disparities. For example, people who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods are exposed to many social stressors, such as violence or the threat of violence, segregated housing, limited access to healthy food, and psychosocial stress. Studies on the interplay of social factors and the epigenome will help explain and address the drivers of health disparities and inform the development of effective interventions.

NIH Guide No: PAR-16-355 and PAR-16-356

Table of Funded Grants

Institution Principal Investigator Project Title
University of Southern California Breton, Carrie Van Influence of Prenatal Psychosocial Stressors on Maternal and Fetal Circulating miRNAs
University of Pittsburgh Celedon, Juan Carlos Exposure to Violence, Epigenetic Variation, and Asthma in Puerto Rican Children
University of Michigan Colter, Mitchell Epigenetic Mediation of Adverse Social Context on Stress Response, Socioemotional Development, and Health in a Population-Based Study of Minority and Low SES Children and Adolescents
North Carolina State University Raleigh Hoyo, Catherine Social Adversities, Epigenetics, and the Obesity Epidemic
University of Florida Kertes, Darlene A Epigenetic Mechanisms of Emotional/ Behavioral Health Among Impoverished African American Youth
North Carolina Central University Kumar, Deepak Molecular Determinants of Social Factors in Prostate Cancer
Northwestern University Miller, Gregory Evan Understanding Socioeconomic Disparities in Perinatal Risk: The Role of Epigenetic and Transcriptional Regulation in the Placenta
University of Michigan Needham, Belinda L Race/ Ethnicity, DNA Methylation, and Disparities in Cardiovascular Mortality: NHANES 1999-2002
Beckman Research Institute, City of Hope (NCI-funded) Seewaldt, Victoria Epigenetic Damage in Women Living in LA Food Desert Zip Codes
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Uddin, Monica Epigenomic Predictors of PTSD and Traumatic Stress in an African American Cohort