Public Release: 

BU researcher receives grant to study how PTSD may accelerate aging

Boston University School of Medicine

(Boston)--Erika J. Wolf, PhD, a clinical research psychologist at the National Center for PTSD at VA Boston Healthcare System, has been awarded a two-year, $346,000 R21 grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) to study post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-related accelerated cellular aging in post-mortem brain tissue.

Wolf, who also serves as associate professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), has previously researched the extent to which someone's epigenetic age may differ from their chronological age based on methylation levels at select locations in the DNA. The process of DNA methylation affects the extent to which a gene can be expressed or transcribed. She has shown that PTSD and other traumatic-stress related conditions are associated with accelerated epigenetic aging when measured in human subjects and that traumatic stress predicts the rate of epigenetic aging over time.

In her new project, Neurobiological Correlates of Accelerated Cellular Aging, Wolf will attempt to replicate this association in brain tissue, given that PTSD and other psychiatric conditions are mediated in the brain. Another major study aim is to examine how accelerated epigenetic age alters gene expression in the brain. She hopes to gain insight into the physiological mechanisms and consequences of accelerated epigenetic aging which may lead to identifying treatment approaches that might slow or reverse accelerated aging.

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The NIA is one of the 27 Institutes and Centers of the National Institutes of Health. It leads a broad scientific effort to understand the nature of aging and to extend the healthy, active years of life. It is the primary Federal agency supporting and conducting Alzheimer's disease research.

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