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Am J Public Health. 2013 Oct;103 Suppl 1:S84-92. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.301183. Epub 2013 Aug 8.

Social regulation of human gene expression: mechanisms and implications for public health.

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Steven W. Cole is with the Division of Hematology-Oncology, School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles.


Recent analyses have discovered broad alterations in the expression of human genes across different social environments. The emerging field of social genomics has begun to identify the types of genes sensitive to social regulation, the biological signaling pathways mediating these effects, and the genetic polymorphisms that modify their individual impact. The human genome appears to have evolved specific "social programs" to adapt molecular physiology to the changing patterns of threat and opportunity ancestrally associated with changing social conditions. In the context of the immune system, this programming now fosters many of the diseases that dominate public health. The embedding of individual genomes within a broader metagenomic network provides a framework for integrating molecular, physiologic, and social perspectives on human health.

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