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A doctor's first year in residency is so intense that their DNA ages six times faster than usual, according to a new study.
Researchers took DNA samples from 250 medical students who graduated from the University of Michigan, first before starting their intern year, then again 12 months later, along with a questionnaire.
Sign - Length - Telomeres - Caps - End
They were looking for a tell-tale sign of ageing: if the length of their telomeres - the caps on the end of chromosomes, which keep cells intact - had shrunk.
As we age, our telomeres shrink and break down, leading to weariness.
Study - Shortening - Telomeres - Residents - Hours
The new study found dramatic and rapid shortening of telomeres in all new residents. The longer the hours, the bigger the shrink.
Meanwhile students in their first undergraduate year at the same school saw no changes to their DNA, despite having to adapt to a new environment and workload.
Findings - Home - Intensity - Doctor - Year
The findings hammer home the intensity of a doctor's first year out of school - and suggest DNA swabs could be used to monitor stress and burn-out in all professions.
'Research has implicated telomeres as an indicator of aging and disease risk,' said lead author Dr Srijan Sen, a neuroscientist and psychiatrist at the University of Michigan.
Findings - Possibility - Biomarker - Effects - Stress
'But these longitudinal findings advance the possibility that telomere length can serve as a biomarker that tracks effects of stress, and helps us understand how stress gets 'under the skin' and increases our risk for disease.'
Telomere length varied at the start of the study, a factor which the questionnaires helped...
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