The ultimate goal of research conducted by the Lei Lab is to acquire and provide the knowledge that is necessary for the development of novel and effective molecular tools for stress-related diseases such as PTSD and suicide risk. Our long-term goal is to establish a molecular basis from which we can search for a therapeutic target or biomarker for stress, suicide risk, and PTSD.
Our laboratory is dedicated to the translational study elucidating the molecular and cellular mechanisms of the actions of genes such as p11 (S100A10), BDNF,FKBP5 and mitochondria focused-genes in stress, suicide risk, and PTSD. We are using genotyping and gene expression approaches to identify possible biomarkers for PTSD and suicidal ideation in military population.
Previously, we had demonstrated that p11 was dysregulated in the brains of PTSD and in the blood of subjects with suicide completers and attempters, and profiled 1,170 informative mitochondria-focused genes in the post-mortem brains of patients with PTSD. We found that p11 and BDNF are associated with PTSD. The p11 mRNA levels are increased in the post-mortem prefrontal cortex (PFC) of PTSD patients and stress-induced p11 mRNA over expression in the PFC in rodents. Moreover, we found that the levels of p11 as a potential biomarker in peripheral blood distinguish patients with PTSD from those with other major psychiatric disorders including bipolar depression, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia. In addition, there were 119 dysregulated mitochondria related genes in PTSD.
These fingerprints can essentially distinguish the PTSD from controls. We have also found genetic association of FKBP5 with PTSD. In addition, we have participated in the biomarker research in US Army Study to Assess Risk and Resiliency in Soldiers (STARRS). Our ongoing biomarker projects also include “Daily Diary Assessment of Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms in U.S. Military Service Members” and “Translational Investigation of Nightmare/Sleep Disturbance Treatments: Val66Met, BDNF, zif268, Inflammatory Genes, Regional Brain Activation, and Treatment Outcome”.
Our biomarker researches may not only enhance the understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms of stress, suicide risk, and PTSD, but may also help to create new therapeutic and/or diagnostic approaches, benefitting both civilians and military service members.