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Karabatsiakis 2022 Abstract Bioblast

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7.6. «5 min»
Karabatsiakis Alexander
Karabatsiakis Alexander, Kolassa I-T, Tumani V (2022) Effects of eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy on mitochondrial bioenergetics in immune cells from patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): a pilot study.
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Karabatsiakis Alexander, Kolassa Iris, Tumani V (2022)

Event: Bioblast 2022

Introduction: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder associated with the exposure to chronic and/or traumatic psychological stress. PTSD causes severe individual suffering, impairments in everyday-life functioning and psychosomatic complaints. Using cross-sectional study designs, we [1] and others [2,3] provided evidence for impaired mitochondrial function in different biological samples including intact peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) collected from patients with major depressive disorder (MDD), one highly prominent psychiatric comorbidity of PTSD. However, data on the possible reversibility effects following psychiatric treatments are sparse but represent an aspect of highest interest for translational biomarker research in the fields of clinical psychology and psychiatry. Here, we present initial data from a pilot study reporting treatment effects of eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, a clinically approved and specialized treatment option for PTSD, on mental functioning in combination with mitochondrial bioenergetics and biogenesis.

Methods: Three female patients diagnosed with PTSD and comorbid MDD were recruited in the Psychiatry Unit of University Hospital in Ulm (Germany), which also provided blood samples for an initial cross-sectional investigation of mitochondrial function in PBMC. One patient agreed to be also followed longitudinally and blood samples were collected at two additional time points across treatment with EMDR. All participants provided written informed consent before participation in the pilot study. Psychiatric impairments related to depression were measured with the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) [4] as previously reported [1]. To characterize mitochondrial function, PBMC were isolated from non-fasting EDTA-buffered whole blood using density gradient centrifugation procedures. Isolated intact PBMC were cryopreserved using standardized procedures and thawed samples were used for high-resolution respirometry using the O2k (Oroboros Instruments, Austria). Following the measurement of oxygen consumption rates, mitochondrial density was measured in shock-frozen samples using spectrophotometrical assessment of citrate synthase activity (CSA). Respiration data and CSA results were compared to a group of previously characterized individuals free of any history of mental disorders (control group, n=38).

Results: While respiration levels and mitochondrial mass were highly stable over a five-weeks interval in the control group, the samples from the three patients with PTSD showed a significant reduction in these mitochondrial parameters before EMDR treatment. A significant improvement in the clinical severity of depressive symptoms was found with EMDR treatment. In addition, mitochondrial oxygen consumption and mitochondrial mass normalized to the level of the mentally-stable control subjects.

Conclusions: Effects of EMDR treatment on patients with PTSD and comorbid MDD seem to include not only an improvement in the level of mental functioning but can also be associated with a normalization of mitochondrial respiration and mitochondrial density in PBMC. The underlying biomolecular processes that lead to these normalization processes associated with EMDR treatment need further investigation. Here, changes in inflammation and bioenergetic metabolism are of special interest for future studies. Towards a clinically-applicable biomarker in the field of clinical psychology and psychiatry, the robustness of our first observation requires another full study cohort with a longitudinal design to demonstrate and confirm mitochondrial bioenergetics and biogenesis as two interrelated biomarker candidates to be used in psychotherapy and psychopharmacological research.

  1. Karabatsiakis A, Böck C, Salinas-Manrique J, Kolassa S, Calzia E, Dietrich DE, Kolassa IT (2014) Mitochondrial respiration in peripheral blood mononuclear cells correlates with depressive subsymptoms and severity of major depression.
  2. Kuffner K, Triebelhorn J, Meindl K, Benner C, Manook A, Sudria-Lopez D, Siebert R, Nothdurfter C, Baghai TC, Drexler K, Berneburg M, Rupprecht R, Milenkovic VM, Wetzel CH (2020) Major depressive disorder is associated with impaired mitochondrial function in skin fibroblasts.
  3. Hroudová J, Fišar Z, Kitzlerová E, Zvěřová M, Raboch J (2013) Mitochondrial respiration in blood platelets of depressive patients.
  4. Hautzinger M, Keller F, Kühner C (2006) Beck depressions inventar revision—Manual. Frankfurt, Germany: Harcourt Test Services.

Keywords: Post-traumatic stress disorder; Depression; PBMC; Mitochondria; EMDR

Affiliations and support

Karabatsiakis A1,2, Kolassa I-T2, Tumani V2
  1. Department of Clinical Psychology II, Institute of Psychology, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria -
  2. Department of Clinical & Biological Psychology, Institute of Psychology and Education, University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany
  3. Department of Psychiatry, Ulm University, Ulm, Germany

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