Medical school professor receives $1.5 million to study link between PTSD, heart disease

A medical school professor has received a more than $1.5 million grant to study possible links between anxiety disorders like post-traumatic stress and heart disease.

The grant, provided by the National Institutes of Health, will fund Paul Marvar, an assistant professor of pharmacology and physiology, and a team of researchers, according to a University release Monday. The four-year-long study will examine the brain’s renin-angiotensin system, a hormone system that helps to regulate blood pressure and fluid balance in the body, and it’s possible impact on “fear memory,” the brain’s recollections of traumatic or unsettling experiences.

Marvar said there has long been a link between PTSD and heart disease in patients.

“Our research will look specifically at the brain renin-angiotensin system and its role in this connection,” he said in the release.

Marvar said he hopes his research team can discover a specific mechanism that could explain why this hormone system affects a patient’s fear memory, which could help those suffering from PTSD.

“We think that if we are able to identify that, then we potentially will be able to intervene at different points following the traumatic memory,” he said in the release. “We could potentially use drugs that target the angiotensin system at the point of formation of the memory or extinction of the memory.”

Researchers will also work with Peter Nemes, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Maryland, on the study.

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