Rachel Yehuda, Ph.D., Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Standard Research Grant (2009): $74,526
Genetic and Clinical Predictors of Suicidal Behavior in Veterans Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan
Abstract: Recently deployed combat veterans serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) in Iraq or Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan appear to be at high risk for attempted and completed suicide, but have not been formally characterized from a clinical or genetic perspective. Identification of clinical and gene markers for suicidal behavior (in consideration of co morbid conditions such as PTSD and depression) in this group would contribute to efforts by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to more accurately identify persons at greater risk for suicide following combat trauma; this will help identify pathways that may be involved in suicide and, accordingly, the development of more effective strategies for prevention of suicide in this growing at risk population. The contribution of extreme stress experienced during deployment is thought to be a contributor to suicidal behavior raising the question of whether in combat veterans; there are additional markers of suicide other than those that have been associated with suicide in non-veterans (e.g., impulsivity, aggression). The study aim is to determine clinical and genetic/molecular risk factors for suicidal behavior in treatment-seeking combat veterans. The investigator will conduct a case control study of 120 treatment-seeking combat veterans expressing suicidal behavior (cases) compared to those who do not (controls). Half of the sample will have made a recent suicide attempt and cases will be matched to controls on age, gender, race/ethnicity and length of deployment. A single blood sample will be obtained in order to examine gene expression profiles using microarray analyses and quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) from RNA extracted from whole blood.