A grant has been awarded for a new study! Read below to learn more about the goals of the proposed study.
Post-traumatic stress (PTS) is a common psychiatric condition, affecting approximately 8% of the US population and 22% of US veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Several, although not all, studies have found that women experience PTS at twice the rate of men despite greater trauma exposure in men, suggesting possible sex differences in risk. Furthermore, PTS can have a profound effect on sleep and has also been associated with physical health conditions, such as metabolic syndrome, inflammation, and cardiovascular disease. Both PTS and sleep disturbances lead to alterations in stress hormones that may increase health risks. Women may be at particularly high risk, given an increased prevalence of PTS and specific health conditions in women compared to men. Yet, there has been little research conducted that examines which biological factors vary by sex and relate to risk or resilience in men and women who have been exposed to trauma. The goal of this study is to identify biological mechanisms using a metabolomics approach that may explain differences in PTS, sleep disturbances that may affect health in men and women. Metabolomics is a laboratory technique to study small molecules in the blood stream that affect cell function. Metabolomics is broad approach that allows for a comprehensive examination of multiple biochemical pathways at the same time that may be missed with more traditional, targeted methods.
Ultimately, the results from this study may help both male and female warfighters who have PTS symptoms resulting from combat and/or military sexual assault as well as civilians who may have developed PTS as a result of life-threatening experiences such as car accidents, natural disasters, or interpersonal violence. The potential clinical application of this work may be the development of a biological marker for assessing risk or resilience for PTS and stress-related health conditions in men and women and potentially lead to the development of medications to improve these concerns. We may find that the results are not the same for men and women, which may lead to a more tailored approach for the screening and treatment of male and female warfighters. Improvements in screening and treatment for PTS will potentially lead to enhanced psychological and physical well-being, and greater quality of life in military personnel and Veterans with PTS and their family members and may also benefit trauma-exposed civilians.