Genetic markers identified through blood test could help in preventing and treating PTSD

Stress disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are widely prevalent and debilitating in civilian as well as military populations, yet majorly undiagnosed. Researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine from Indianapolis stated that their findings could help in the establishment of more precise screenings for PTSD. Their findings were published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

The researchers reinforced that the biomarker gene expression signatures identified by them could help in the investigation of highly effective therapeutic modalities and improvise the accuracy of treatments. Additionally, screening the blood samples for genetic markers could also help in the identification of people who might be at future risk of traumatic stress.

Study insights

For their work, the researchers enrolled and tracked more than 250 veterans receiving treatment at the Indianapolis Veterans Affair (VA) Medical Center. The decade long study commenced with an expansive series of steps for screening the genes that closely trailed stress levels. The research team described their methodology as discovery, prioritization, validation, and testing. Senior study author Alexander B. Niculescu shared that even though the data for this study came from military people, it had relevance for civilians as well. He further stated that millions of people remain underdiagnosed with stress disorders which might lead to more drinking, addictions, suicide, and even violence.

The study started by exploring stress-related genes in blood samples provided by veterans during a series of visits. The blood samples were compared when the veterans were in high and low stress. The researchers discovered that out of a gene pool of nearly 20,000 genes, a few genes underwent extensive changes in expression. Using the stepwise method, 285 genetic markers were found to be associated with 269 genes. Using health records and independent psychiatric test results, the researchers were able to identify some gene markers that extrapolated to high-stress states and also accounted for the psychiatric hospitalizations linked to stress in future.

Moreover, the other markers of aging and stress were also compared with genetic markers and it was found that biomarker signatures eased the identification of natural and synthetic compounds for the treatment of PTSD. In addition, more than 50 percent of the top predictive biomarkers for stress also had a previous indication of suicide and many of them had an evidence in other psychiatric disorders. The team is currently seeking funds to translate the research findings into clinical practice.

PTSD – A response to life-changing event

It is normal to feel a bit disoriented and disturbed after witnessing or experiencing a harrowing life-threatening event like a car accident, violent attack, terrorist attack, or natural calamity. While for some people, resuming normal activities might be fairly easy, for others, going to work or school, taking the bus, driving, or just being in the company of friends and family might get nerve-wrecking. Such people are usually diagnosed with PTSD and for them, professional intervention is indispensable to alleviate the symptoms so that they can start living normally.

If you or a loved one is battling any form of a mental illness, feel free to reach out to the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline. Being a repository of resources on mental health, our experts can connect you with credible mental health centers offering 24/7 mental health treatment. Call our 24/7 outpatient mental health helpline 855-653-8178 for more information about mental health treatment. You can also chat online with a representative for further assistance.