A newborn in an incubator

Welcome to the Health Disparities and Heritability Lab at the University of Connecticut

The Health Disparities and Heritability Lab examines how perceived discrimination, neighborhood vulnerability and stress in Black/African American mother/preterm infant dyads effect telomere length.

The lab is led by UConn School of Nursing assistant professor Sharon Casavant, Ph.D., RN. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Casavant’s research focuses on epigenetic alterations, such as gene expression and telomere length, in preterm infants that result from repeated painful procedures and may negatively influence neurodevelopment. She is currently broadening her research focus, investigating heritability of racial stress between parents and preterm infants via telomere length. As such, her long-term research interests involve the development of a comprehensive understanding of the interactions between genes and environment in Black mother-preterm infant dyads.

A graphic illustrates how telomere lengths are passed from mother to baby.