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Specifically, the team is studying the role of epigenetics, an expanding field that examines changes that occur in cells outside the genes and the impact that these changes have on physiological changes previously believed to be controlled directly by genes.

“Epigenetics is a growing area of research,” Nagarkatti said. “Researchers have believed that behavior was influenced by changes in genes. Now they are exploring whether these changes occur outside the genes and are influenced by external factors such as diet, exposure to toxins and traumatic events. Our preliminary research indicates that this is the case.”

Preliminary studies carried out in Nagarkatti’s laboratory showed that PTSD patients had altered immune profile with higher proportion of T cells, which are white blood cells that trigger inflammation. The increased number of T cells correlated with alterations in small molecules outside the genes, called micro RNAs, that control various functions of genes. These molecules also were significantly altered in PTSD patients when compared to normal individuals.

The investigators include: Drs. Prakash Nagarkatti (PI), Mitzi Nagarkatti (Co-PI), Dr. Juhua Zhou (Co-I) from SOM, Dr. Jiajia Zhang (Co-I) from  the Arnold School of Public Health and Dr. Jack Ginsberg (Co-I) from the Dorn VA Medical Center.

By Office of Media Relations

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Posted: 07/11/11 @ 11:55 AM | Updated: 07/15/11 @ 2:41 PM | Permalink



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