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Dr. Mitzi Nagarkatti awarded $2.4M NIH grant for PTSD/inflammation study

Dr. Mitzi Nagarkatti, professor and chair of the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology at the School of Medicine, was recently awarded a five-year National Institutes of Health Research Project Grant for $2.4million to study the connection between inflammation and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is an acute or chronic response to an extremely traumatic or life threatening event including combat, a natural disaster or a personal assault. It is estimated that 7.7 million U.S. adults currently suffer from PTSD.

Nagarkatti’s research team will examine the changes PTSD can cause in the body’s immune response, as PTSD patients have been shown to be more susceptible to infection and at greater risk for cardiovascular, neurodegenerative and other inflammatory diseases.

The project will focus on a novel area of research known as the epigenome – a symphony of chemical compounds that give instructions to the human genome (the complete set of DNA that makes each individual unique). Exposure to trauma may induce changes in the epigenome, which in turn triggers inflammation.

The overall goal of the team’s research is to develop personalized medicine for PTSD patients – new therapeutic interventions which could enable early diagnosis, more effective treatments, and even prevention of the disorder.