A Healthier Wisconsin

Epigenetic and Neural Mechanisms of Risk Phenotypes for PTSD

Understanding risk for chronic PTSD after traumatic injury in Wisconsin

Full Project Name:A Translational Study of Epigenetic and Neural Mechanisms of Risk Phenotypes for PTSDPrincipal Investigator:Gwen Lomberk, PhD, SurgeryCo-Investigator:Terri deRoon-Cassini, PhD, SurgeryAward Amount:$250,000
Award Date
Project Duration:30 months

Project Description Narrative:

All too often, people who experience a traumatic event go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A long-lasting form of the disorder, when symptoms do not go away or later re-emerge, occurs in one in four traumatic injury survivors. PTSD disrupts daily life, interfering with the ability to perform typical daily tasks, making it hard to work, and complicating relationships with family and friends. These challenges can lead to other problems, including depression, drug or alcohol abuse, and other physical or mental health conditions. In fact, PTSD is the anxiety disorder with the highest cost burden to society.

PTSD is associated with changes in brain function and structure. While there has been progress in understanding who is at risk for PTSD following traumatic injury, there remains much to learn regarding PTSD development in order to provide better and more timely intervention and treatment options.

Through this award, a collaborative research team aims to apply novel strategies, including looking at marks present on DNA in the blood, to understand risk for chronic PTSD and recognize patterns that connect with changes in brain function after traumatic injury in order to develop patient-centered screening and intervention approaches.

Additional collaborators:
Christine Larson, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Reggie Moore, City of Milwaukee Health Department Office of Violence Prevention; Jeanette Kowalick, PhD, City of Milwaukee Health Department

Project Updates:

  • Developed and optimized standard operating procedures for new collaborative interactions led by various faculty members, including patient screening and enrollment, sample hand-off, DNA extraction, fMRI training, and task development and optimization
  • Enrolled 132 participants in the study and began DNA methylome analysis on the first batch of 96 participant samples
  • Beginning significant intensive data analysis and dissemination of findings

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