A research team from the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis led by Jesse Stewart, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, has been granted a $2.2 million award from the National Institutes of Health. The fund will be used in a new four-year research project conducted in two parts to examine the association between depression, depression treatment and cardiovascular disease in adults with HIV. Currently, cardiovascular disease is the main cause of mortality in adults with HIV. The other two principal researchers in the team are Samir Gupta, M.D., associate professor of medicine in the IU School of Medicine, and internist Matthew Freiberg, M.D., associate professor of medicine in the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
For the first project, the researchers will recruit 1,525 adults with HIV from the national Veterans Aging Cohort Study. The aim is to understand how depression increases cardiovascular disease risk. To do this, the researchers are going to investigate if depression is associated with high levels of blood with inflammatory and clotting proteins. Furthermore, they are going examine if HIV-positive adults with depression that are taking antidepressants or psychotherapy treatment present low levels of the proteins compared to HIV-positive adults who are not undergoing any treatment.
For the second project, the researchers are going to examine if the available treatments for depression can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. To do this, they are going to conduct a randomized controlled trial where 100 HIV adults with depression and undergoing antiretroviral therapy will be assigned to either standard depression treatment, or will receive a computerized cognitive-behavioral therapy for depression called Beating the Blues.
“We are excited because, if these two projects are successful, we may be able to provide clinicians caring for HIV-infected patients with a potent new tool — depression treatment — to lower the risk of or prevent heart attacks and strokes,” said Stewart in a recent press release.
In previous research published in 2008, Jesse Stewart found a strong association indication that depression and risk of cardiovascular disease is similar to the risk from factors such as smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Last year, Stewart reported that treatment for depression decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
“We are expanding our work from primary care patients — a general population — to a specific group — adults with HIV,” Stewart said in the press release. “In the future, we may extend this line of research to determine if depression treatment can help prevent cardiovascular disease in other patient groups.”