The long-term epigenetic footprint of neonatal pain
In the recent paper published in Acta Paediatrica, we report on the association between pain-related increase in the serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4) methylation status and emotion regulation in 4.5-year-old preterm children. This study, for the first time in literature, documents - through a longitudinal and prospective study design - that early exposure to painful procedures in preterm infants may result in epigenetic modifications linked with heightened emotional reactivity in preschoolers. This study further contributes to highlight the epigenetic vestiges of early pain and care exposures in preterm infants. Moreover, if early adverse stimulations may embedded into the epigenome with such long-lasting detrimental effects for emotional development, then investment in early family-centered and developmental care programs are warranted in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Citation: Provenzi L, Fumagalli M, Scotto di Minico G, Giorda R, Morandi F, Sirgiovanni I, Schiavolin P, Mosca F, Borgatti R, Montirosso R (2019) Pain-related stress increase in serotonin transporter gene methylation associates with emotional regulation in 4.5-year-old preterm-born children. Acta Paediatrica, doi: 10.1111/apa.15077