The etiology of anxiety disorders is complex, involving genetic and environmental factors. The research conducted in the Outpatient Clinic for Anxiety Disorders aims to integrate different levels of anxiety pathophysiology. We investigate dynamic molecular and endocrinological changes during the therapeutic process in order to detect a biomarker panel which can be used for characterization of symptom clusters, disease status and outcome prediction. We use translational approaches applying a variety of methods from clinical and preclinical research to get the whole picture of anxiety pathophysiology. This project is supported by the EraNet Neuron and is an international collaboration.
Furthermore, we perform candidate gene and genome-wide analysis to detect gene clusters contributing to the pathophysiology of panic attacks and other anxiety disorders. One important target, which has been detected in a recent genome-wide analysis, is the transmembrane protein 132 D (TMEM132D). Genetic variants in this gene are associated with panic disorder and severity of anxiety symptomatology in other psychiatric conditions. Previous studies suggest a role of TMEM132D in the brain connectivity function and the processing of anxiety-relevant stimuli. Further imaging and molecular studies are ongoing to further characterize the role and possible utility of TMEM132D in the treatment of anxiety (Fig. 1).