Former Georgia CTSA TL1 Trainee Links Inflammation to Risk for PTSD

A new study led by former Georgia CTSA TL1 Trainee and Master of Science in Clinical Research (MSCR) graduate Vasiliki Michopoulos, PhD, MSc, finds that assessing proinflammatory immune response to trauma in the emergency room may help identify risk for developing chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Michopoulos is the first author of the paper highlighting these findings, Association of Prospective Risk for Chronic PTSD Symptoms With Low TNFa and IFNg Concentrations in the Immediate Aftermath of Trauma Exposure, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.  

Although several reports have documented inflammation in PTSD, few studies have assessed whether inflammatory markers serve as prospective biomarkers for PTSD risk. This prospective paper follows on her earlier work looking at the association between PTSD and inflammation in a cross-sectional study.

Now working as an independently-funded investigator, Michopoulos has received several NIH grants for her research. In addition to serving on the Georgia CTSA Research Education Executive Committee, Michopoulos is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University; Co-Director, Grady Trauma Project; Core Scientist, Yerkes National Primate Research Center; and Co-Director, Yerkes Biomarker Core. Her work has been cited over 2,000 times, including 455 times in 2019.

Her current focus is investigating how psychosocial stress and trauma exposure across the lifespan adversely affects behavior and physiology using a translational neuroscience approach across non-human primates and humans. Read more in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences about the work Michopoulos and her team are doing in socially housed monkeys to assess the causal effects of stress on inflammation and the immune system. Using this unique approach, Michopoulos helps advance the efficiency, quality and impact of translational science, with the goal of translating basic research into treatments and getting them to more patients more quickly.

Michopoulos says, "The TL1 program was essential for my development into a successful clinical and translational researcher. The didactics offered in the TL1 program gave me a strong background regarding the ins and outs of conducting translational research, and the strong mentorship and networking offered by the faculty of the TL1 program facilitated the emergence of multiple collaborations and funded lines of research, as well as continued support for my career development."

After receiving her MSCR degree as a TL1 Trainee, Michopoulos also completed the Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health (K12-BIRCWH) scholars program, a highly selective career development program for junior investigators interested in women’s health research. The Georgia CTSA KL2 program collaborates closely with the Emory K12-BIRCWH program. Igho Ofotokun, MD, MSc, serves as both the Georgia CTSA KL2 Program Co-Director and as PI of the K12-BIRCWH program, along with Emory President Claire Sterk, and has facilitated close collaboration between these two programs.

Georgia CTSA's TL1 program provides outstanding opportunities for clinical and translational research training for predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees. The program is focused on providing didactic and mentored research training for predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees interested in a career focused on clinical and/or translational research relevant to human health. The Georgia CTSA is dedicated to providing predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees with state-of-the-art scientific knowledge, tools, and methods to improve human health through rigorous clinical and translational research training. Through the TL1 program, the Georgia CTSA will increase the translational research workforce and enhance career development of future leaders of the biomedical research workforce, a major mission of NCATS and NIH.

The goal of the Georgia CTSA KL2-Mentored Clinical and Translational Research Scholars program is to support and enhance career development for junior faculty (MD, PhD, MD/PhD, or PharmD) from a wide variety of disciplines at Emory University, Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM), Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), and University of Georgia (UGA) College of Pharmacy. The Georgia CTSA KL2 Core is committed to assisting junior faculty at partner institutions to become independent, established, and ethical clinical and/or translational research investigators.