Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Trauma-induced changes to genes may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder

Date:
May 5, 2010
Source:
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Summary:
Traumatic experiences "biologically embed" themselves in select genes, altering their functions and leading to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder, new research suggests.

A study by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health suggests that traumatic experiences "biologically embed" themselves in select genes, altering their functions and leading to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"Our findings suggest a new biological model of PTSD in which alteration of genes, induced by a traumatic event, changes a person's stress response and leads to the disorder," said Sandro Galea, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, and principal investigator.

"Identification of the biologic underpinnings of PTSD will be crucial for developing appropriate psychological and/or pharmacological interventions, particularly in the wake of an increasing number of military veterans returning home following recent wars worldwide."

The findings are published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Previous studies have found that lifetime experiences may alter the activity of specific genes by changing their methylation patterns. Methylated genes are generally inactive, while unmethylated genes are generally active.

The new study is the first large scale investigation to search for trauma-induced changes in the genes of people with PTSD. DNA samples were obtained from participants in the Detroit Neighborhood Health Study (DNHS), a longitudinal epidemiologic study investigating PTSD and other mental disorders in the city of Detroit. The researchers analyzed the methylation patterns of over 14,000 genes from blood samples taken from 100 Detroit residents, 23 of whom suffer from PTSD.

The analysis found that participants with PTSD had six to seven times more unmethylated genes than unaffected participants, and most of the unmethylated genes were involved in the immune system.

The observed methylation changes in the immune system genes were reflected in the PTSD participants' immune systems: levels of antibodies to a herpes virus were high in PTSD patients, indicative of a compromised immune system.

While people who experience severe trauma will exhibit a normal stress response, in PTSD, the stress response system becomes deregulated and chronically overactive causing compromised immune functioning. PTSD has long been linked to increased risk of numerous physical health problems -- including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This paper suggests why PTSD is so strongly associated with physical health problems -- trauma exposure causes epigenetic changes in immune system genes and thus, compromised immune functioning putting individuals at risk for a host of disorders.

"Our findings show that PTSD may be associated with epigenetic changes in immune-system genes. If this is the case, these clusters could provide clues to our understanding of how a traumatic event changes gene expression, thus altering immune function and resulting in other possible physiologic alterations," says Dr. Galea.

The study was funded by grants from the NIH, with additional support provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholars Program.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. Uddin, A. E. Aiello, D. E. Wildman, K. C. Koenen, G. Pawelec, R. de los Santos, E. Goldmann, S. Galea. Epigenetic and immune function profiles associated with posttraumatic stress disorder. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0910794107

Cite This Page:

Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "Trauma-induced changes to genes may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100504102124.htm>.
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. (2010, May 5). Trauma-induced changes to genes may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100504102124.htm
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "Trauma-induced changes to genes may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100504102124.htm (accessed September 23, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Newsy (Sep. 18, 2014) New research shows that women who suffer from PTSD are three times more likely to develop a food addiction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Corporal punishment in the United States is on the decline, but there is renewed debate over its use after Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins