08 April 2014

Don't keep parrots in solitary confinement

Loneliness harms chromosomes

Kirill Stasevich, CompulentaWe know that one of the "sensors" of aging are telomeres – the end sections of chromosomes that measure the lifetime of a cell.

And we also know that telomeres are sensitive to a variety of factors. It is known, for example, that clinical depression is accompanied by shortening of telomeres – which means that the life span is also shortened: a cell with short telomeres in chromosomes will not be able to divide and renew aging tissue for a long time.

Another proof that social stress shortens telomeres was obtained by researchers from the Veterinary University in Vienna (Austria). However, in this case, scientists did not work with people, but with parrots: it turned out that Jacko's parrots, who had to live alone, had shorter telomeres than those who were in the company of their own kind. Although parrots in general, and jacko parrots in particular, are very social birds, they are often kept alone (although in the same Austria such "solitary confinement" of parrots is prohibited). So scientists compared the length of telomeres in single jacko and those who lived in pairs, and the age range in birds was the widest, from one year to 45 years.

Jacko's parrots also suffer from loneliness. (Photo by Denise Aydinonat / University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna.)

Of course, as the researchers write in the web journal PLoS ONE - Aydinonat et al., Social Isolation Shortens Telomeres in African Grey Parrots (Psittacus erithacus erithacus), telomeres were naturally shorter in old birds, but when comparing jackos of the same age, the chromosomal tails were still smaller in singles. The connection between the lack of communication and telomeres has already been tested before, but these works were performed exclusively with people. So this is the first study in which this topic is analyzed with the involvement of animals. (By the way, the effect of social stress on telomere length was also tested on mice, but in that case it was about another type of stress – when an individual faced overpopulation.)

Earlier we also reported that loneliness also negatively affects the immune system. Add to this the story of telomeres, and it becomes clear that loneliness, despite all its romantic appeal, is best avoided. However, in studies with telomeres, it is always necessary to remember that it is one thing to notice their shortening under the influence of some factor, and another to link all this with the actual life expectancy and health status. That is why we are writing so far only about the fact that loneliness "harms chromosomes": to find out how this harm affects the body, further research will be needed.

Prepared according to the materials of the Vienna Veterinary University:
Loneliness impacts DNA repair: The long and the short of telomeres.

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru08.04.2014

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