Project Details

Early Career

Status: Funded - Open

Examining the mental and physical health sequelae of childhood maltreatment and psychiatric illness

Kathryn Ridout, MD, PhD


BACKGROUND: Childhood maltreatment, defined as abuse or neglect, is a major public health problem experienced by over 3.4 million American children and is linked to a broad range of poor health outcomes. Changes in mitochondrial function are markers of cellular aging closely linked to a number of health disorders and recently associated with a history of early adversity. The main biological stress response system is altered in children and adults who experienced childhood maltreatment and this plays an important role in the development of mental and physical health disorders.

GAP: We propose to conduct the first study to characterize the role of mitochondria in the stress response to maltreatment in children, and how this may contribute to mental and physical health outcomes.

HYPOTHESIS: The primary hypothesis is that children exposed to significant adversity will exhibit altered mitochondrial replication as exhibited by mtDNA copy number. Further we will examine whether this biological finding will be correlated with poor physical and mental health outcomes.

METHODS: A racially- and ethnically-diverse group of healthy children aged 3-5 years old with a documented maltreatment history will be compared to demographically matched children with no maltreatment. Saliva DNA will be used to measure the primary outcomes of mtDNA copy number using standard quantitative and real-time polymerase chain reaction methods and compared with telomere length, measures of stress response and rich measures of psychosocial status, behavioral, physical and psychiatric symptoms and diagnoses.  

RESULTS: Pending

IMPACT: This study aims to elucidate biomarkers and potential interventional targets for children with poor health outcomes after maltreatment exposure and could improve children’s health by helping to identify children who need social and physical intervention.

Supervising Institution:
Butler Hospital

Audrey Tyrka

Project Location:
Rhode Island

Award Amount: