New PTSD blood test could aid prevention and treatment

Posted on March 18, 2019

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a form of stress disorder that could lead to great dysfunction to an individual’s life if left untreated. It has also been reported that stress disorders in general are prevalent, disabling and underdiagnosed. Recent research investigating the genetic markers of PTSD and yielded positive results and the scientists suggest that their findings could lead to more accurate diagnoses of PTSD and identification of individuals who might be at risk for future traumatic stress. Additionally, the “biomarker gene expression signatures” that were identified could further help identify more effective therapeutic compounds and improvements in the precision of treatments.

Upon witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event, it is normal for people to constantly remember the episode, feel edgy, upset, and have disrupted sleep. This could escalate leading to difficulty resuming normal daily life such as going to work or just being with family and friends. However, for most individuals, things do improve eventually and if it does not, there is possibility that PTSD has developed. PSTD can affect any individual though some may be more susceptible to its development such as individuals who suffer from injury, sexual assault or have been in combat. Traumatic events are not uncommon with at least 50% of the United States population experiencing at least one life-threatening event in their lives, of which 10-20% go on to develop PTSD. Thus, it would be beneficial to identify key biomarkers that could signify a risk of developing PTSD.

To begin, the team of scientists first identified candidate genes from blood samples that most precisely tracked stress levels. This was a longitudinal study that took place over the course of 10 years with more than 250 veterans from the military who were receiving treatment at the Indiana VA Medical Center. Blood samples from when the veterans were experience high and low stress were compared, and the team was able to identify the genes that underwent significant changes in its expression. Through this, they found 285 genetic markers associated with 2669 genes. This information was cross-checked with health records and psychiatric test results, revealing that there are indeed, certain genetic markers that were predictive of high stress states, and future psychiatric hospitalization for stress related issues.

Furthermore, with the identification of these biomarkers, it serves to help target natural and synthetic compounds that might benefit individuals in terms of its potential to treat PTSD. This study also enabled the discovery of a biological and molecular underpinning of the effects of stress in disorders such as PTSD and more than half of the top predictive biomarkers identified, had prior evidence of involvement in suicide and other psychiatric disorders.

Despite the pool of participants being only from the military population, Alexander B. Niculescu a professor of psychiatry assures that the findings would have broader relevance for the general public. With a biological understanding, the hope is to be better able to treat these individuals from both a biological and psychological perspective, to prevent future episodes.

Category(s):Complex PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) / Trauma / Complex PTSD

Source material from Medical News Today