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PHSU Neuroscientists Find That Modifying Brain Proteins/Stress Hormones Can Increase PTSD Resiliency

A team led by Dr. James Porter, Ph.D at Ponce Health Sciences University has found that lowering the FKBP5 protein in the brain can reduce likelihood of developing PTSD.

Ponce, Puerto Rico (PRUnderground) April 12th, 2017 – A team led by Dr. James Porter, Ph.D., Professor of Basic Sciences at Ponce Health Sciences Universityand Principal Investigator, Neurosciences Division in the Ponce Research Institute (both in Ponce, Puerto Rico), has published research findings which demonstrate that lowering the FKBP5 protein in the brain reduces fear response and enhances the dissipation of that response.  The findings also suggest that lowering FKBP5 in the brain’s ventral medial prefrontal cortex can reduce an individual’s likelihood of developing PTSD after trauma exposure.

The research paper is titled “Dynamic Expression of FKBP5 in the Medial Prefrontal Cortex Regulates Resiliency to Conditioned Fear”, and appears in the April 2017 issue of Learning & Memory (CSH Press).

“Dr. Porter has done valuable work trying to understand the mechanisms that underlie post traumatic stress and the elimination of their associated ‘bad/aversive’ memories,” says President of Ponce Research Institute and Vice President of Research, Ponce Health Sciences University Dr. Kenira J. Thompson.  “This is extremely relevant given the number of veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD in the last decade.  Current treatment strategies do not work for all, and any new research in this area is hugely important.”

Dr. Porter’s research is the first to reveal a number of important findings, including:

  • Stress-hormone (glucocorticoid) signaling in the infralimbic cortex regulates sensitivity to developing PTSD-like behaviors after trauma exposure.
  • Reducing a specific protein (tyrosine kinase EphB2) enhances fear elimination (also known as fear extinction) in adolescent rats. EphB2 is a novel target for enhancing adolescent fear extinction, which is less robust that extinction in adults.  This discovery is noteworthy because children and teens often experience traumatic events that hinder their functioning as adults, in many cases due to these lingering trauma-induced fears. A treatment that could help extinguish those fears would be beneficial for patients.
  • Activation of the immune system can impair fear extinction.  This impairment could be prevented using the angiotensin receptor inhibitor candesartan, which opens the possibility of using similar compounds to treat PTSD particularly in patients with higher levels of inflammation.

“Scientific dogma suggests that the brain’s infralimbic cortex isn’t altered when conditioned fear is experienced, but our team found that the infralimbic neurons most definitely do undergo changes when such trauma-induced fear occurs,” says Dr. Porter.  “This discovery offers huge insights into the mechanisms that can affect an individual’s likelihood of developing PTSD after being exposed to physical or psychological trauma – whether it occurs during adolescence, in combat, or after witnessing a severely distressing or violent event.”

Dr. Porter’s research team at the Ponce Research Institute included Dr. Marangelie Criado-Marreo, Dr. Emmanuel Cruz, Roberto J. Morales Silva, Bethzaly Velazquez, Anixa Hernandez, Maria Colon, and Omar Soler-Cedeno.

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