Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric condition and symptoms can occur after being exposed to extremely stressful life events.
Investigators with the University of South Carolina School of Medicine and Arnold School of Public Health and the Dorn VA Medical Center are conducting research on PTSD with hopes to determine why some individuals are effected with the disorder while others are not.
The lead researcher and associate dean at the USC medical school, Dr. Prakash Nagarkatti says they’ve been able to identify certain molecules that appear to regulate the functions of specific genes. “We’ve found that the PTSD patients seem to have significant alterations in these micro RNA and therefore we speculate that these changes might impact the genes that impact the behavior and other symptoms that are associated with PTSD.”
The findings are also the basis for a new, $1.72 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to Nagarkatti and his team, who will intensify their research. “We’ll use these funds to do a larger study and see whether our hypothesis holds true. And if it turns out to be true, then it’s going to be a ground-breaking observation.”
More than 35 percent of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have received mental health diagnoses, the most prevalent being PTSD. Researchers say that patients with PTSD are six times more at risk of committing suicide. “If we can identify a marker that distinguishes these individuals who develop PTSD versus those who do not, then we might be able to say, here is a mile marker that can actually predict as to which individuals might become susceptible to PTSD.”
Nagarkatti says preliminary results of the study show a link between PTSD and compromised immune system in war veterans diagnosed with the disorder. “What we are hypothesizing is that changes in the immune system that is seen in the PTSD patients might regulate the behavior and other symptoms that are associated, that are regulated by the brain.”
Nagarkatti says the results are significant because they could lead to methods for diagnosis and treatment of PTSD. “Our results would also have implications not only for PTSD patients who have gone and experienced war, but also those who have been exposed to other traumatic events such as if you’re subjected to rape, or domestic abuse, or experienced terrorist attacks and all those conditions can also trigger PTSD. So it’s got significant implication even in the civilian population.”
Researchers of PTSD say if the hypothesis holds true, it’s going to be a ground breaking observation.