New research has revealed a genetic link to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), now considered one of the most common of the major psychiatric disorders. A researcher from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and her colleagues have published their findings in the journal Nature.
The findings are significant because not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop the disorder, and weeding out who might be at risk is a considerable step toward matching people with effective treatments.
“When someone goes through a trauma it is hard to know who to treat because not everyone exposed to trauma develops PTSD,” says Amanda Myers, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Miller School and co-author of the study.
“Treating individuals who do not develop PTSD after trauma can actually be harmful; therefore it is crucial to discover biomarkers for who will develop PTSD as well as mapping pathways involved in PTSD to help develop better therapies. Our new finding is one step in helping us figure out the biological markers and pathways involved in understanding who is at risk for developing PTSD.”
For the study, researchers used blood samples from over 1,200 severely traumatized patients treated in an Atlanta emergency room; some went on to develop PTSD and others did not.
Through the samples, Myers and her colleagues at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta were able to map an effect in the pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP) gene and its receptor PAC 1.
The protein PACAP, known to broadly regulate the cellular stress response, was found to be over-expressed in the individuals with PTSD.
“This is important work because at the current time there is no reliable set of predictors that can inform clinicians as to who will or will not develop PTSD after trauma exposure,” says Charles Nemeroff, M.D., Ph.D., Miller Professor and Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Miller School.
“There is increasing evidence, largely from the World Trade Center attacks, that immediate psychological intervention for all trauma victims is not only ineffective, but may actually interfere with normal recovery.”
Source: University of Miami