Doctors at Stony Brook University School of Medicine and the Long Island Clinical Center of Excellence have received a two-year $1 million grant to study the role genetics may play after exposure to environmental toxins in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and respiratory illness in 9/11 WTC responders. Approximately 10 percent of 9/11 responders treated at WTC Health Programs suffer from both conditions.
studies have linked PTSD with physical illnesses, illustrating the
integral association between mental health and physical disease. It will be the first study to investigate the association between genetic
changes and the development of both conditions in the 9/11 responder
“Not only are a large portion of our men and women
responders suffering from both conditions, but this type of
mental/physical comorbidity has been shown to lead to increased
disability and decreased quality of life. This is a detriment to their
long-term health and adds to the multiple medical services these
patients already need,” says Dr. Benjamin J. Luft, Principal Investigator of the study.
Dr. Luft and colleagues will identify
biomarkers in individuals by using methods in epigenetics, the study of
changes in the human genome from environmental and other outside
exposures. The research team will take blood DNA samples from responders
to determine methylation patterns, a chemical process contributing to
changes in DNA as a result of exposures. By defining the patterns, they
hope to uncover biological mechanisms that can help to genetically
characterize pathways linking PTSD and respiratory illness in patients.
environmental exposure of such magnitude as experienced by the
responders may affect the genome of each individual, and over time some
of these genomic changes may trigger the turning on or off of certain
genes that are implicated in diseases such as cancer, respiratory
conditions and PTSD.”
Approximately 500 patients treated at the LI-CCE for
both conditions will be evaluated during the two-year study.