‘Our findings suggest a new biological model of post-traumatic stress in which the modification of genes induced by a traumatic event, changes in response to a person and leads to disorder,’ said Sandro Galea, MD, Professor and Chairman Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health and principal investigator.While people who suffer from severe trauma have a normal reaction to stress in PTSD, the system response to stress becomes deregulated, leading to chronic hyperactivity, impaired immune function. PTSD has long been linked with an increased risk of many physical health problems – including heart disease e. This document describes why PTSD is so strongly associated with physical health problems – exposure to trauma results in epigenetic changes in genes of the immune system and so compromising the immune function by putting people at risk for a variety of disorders.
Previous studies have shown that experiences in life can alter the activity of specific genes, changing their patterns of methylation. Methylated genes are generally inactive, while the methylated genes are generally active.
The new study is the first large survey to search for a trauma-induced changes in the genes of people with PTSD. DNA samples were obtained from participants in the study of the Detroit Health District , a longitudinal epidemiological study investigating PTSD and other mental disorders in the city of Detroit. The researchers analyzed the methylation pattern of more than 14,000 genes in blood samples from 100 residents of Detroit, including 23 suffering from PTSD.
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The analysis revealed that participants with PTSD are 6-7 times more methylated genes that interested participants, and most of methylated genes have been implicated in the immune system.
The findings are published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences .
Mailman School of Public Health Columbia University
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‘Identifying the biological basis of PTSD will be essential for the development of appropriate psychological interventions and / or medication, particularly in the wake of a growing number of veterans returning home after the recent wars in the world.’