National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version


Document Type



UReCA: The NCHC Undergraduate Journal of Research and Creative Activity, 2021, pages 1-24


Copyright 2021, the author


Research titled Molecular Genetic Modifications in the Human Genome: Racial Discrimination as a Biological Stressor by Nicolette Dobson in UReCA: The NCHC Undergraduate Journal of Research and Creative Activity, 2021, pages 1-24.


Racial discrimination enhances group separation and places individuals into stereotypical categories based on race and other factors (e.g. gender, behavior, etc.). As seen in studies on physiological diseases and psychological disorders, minority groups (e.g. African Americans) face cellular senescence at an increased risk due to health-related comorbidities and prevalent experiences of racism. This review provides an analysis of modifications within the human genome that may lead to additional insight on the biological stressor: racial discrimination. We focus on how discriminatory practices may alter DNA and histone methylation patterns, leukocyte telomere length, and cognitive behavior specifically among African Americans and other minority groups. Here, the varying studies presented provide insight into the long-term, and sometimes irreversible, immunological effects that racial discrimination induces at the physiological and cellular levels. These findings are supported and summarized through statistically significant data (p < 0.05), reflecting that racial discrimination is a key factor and inducer of stress and biological strain in some populations. Yet, it is imperative to note that racial discrimination works in conjunction with other environmental stimuli that individuals are exposed to in society. Thus, this review ultimately aims to uncover and explore a potential underlying mechanism of how racial discrimination affects human physiology at the biological and molecular levels, while supporting the notion that racial discrimination may play a key role in the documented health disparities seen in social settings.