Why do some persons succumb to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while others who suffered the same ordeal do not? A new UCLA study may shed light on the answer.
UCLA scientists have linked two genes involved in serotonin production to a higher risk of developing PTSD. Published in the April 3 online edition of the Journal of Affective Disorders, the findings suggest that susceptibility to PTSD is inherited, pointing to new ways of screening for and treating the disorder.
"People can develop post-traumatic stress disorder after surviving a life-threatening ordeal like war, rape or a natural disaster," explained lead author Dr. Armen Goenjian, a research professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. "If confirmed, our findings could eventually lead to new ways to screen people at risk for PTSD and target specific medicines for preventing and treating the disorder."
PTSD can arise following child abuse, terrorist attacks, sexual or physical assault, major accidents, natural disasters or exposure to war or combat. Symptoms include flashbacks, feeling emotionally numb or hyper-alert to danger, and avoiding situations that remind one of the original trauma.
Goenjian and his colleagues extracted the DNA of 200 adults from several generations of 12 extended families who suffered PTSD symptoms after surviving the devastating 1988 earthquake in Armenia.
In studying the families' genes, the researchers found that persons who possessed specific variants of two genes were more likely to develop PTSD symptoms. Called TPH1 and TPH2, these genes control the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that regulates mood, sleep and alertness -- all of which are disrupted in PTSD.
"We suspect that the gene variants produce less serotonin, predisposing these family members to PTSD after exposure to violence or disaster," said Goenjian. "Our next step will be to try and replicate the findings in a larger, more heterogeneous population."
Affecting about 7 percent of Americans, PTSD has become a pressing health issue for a large percentage of war veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The UCLA team's discovery could be used to help screen persons who may be at risk for developing PTSD.
"A diagnostic tool based upon TPH1 and TPH2 could enable military leaders to identify soldiers who are at higher risk of developing PTSD, and reassign their combat duties accordingly," observed Goenjian. "Our findings may also help scientists uncover alternative treatments for the disorder, such as gene therapy or new drugs that regulate the chemicals responsible for PTSD symptoms."
According to Goenjian, pinpointing genes connected with PTSD symptoms will help neuroscientists classify the disorder based on brain biology instead of clinical observation. Psychiatrists currently rely on a trial and error approach to identify the best medication for controlling an individual patient's symptoms.
Serotonin is the target of the popular antidepressants known as SSRIs, or selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, which prolong the effect of serotonin in the brain by slowing its absorption by brain cells. More physicians are prescribing SSRIs to treat psychiatric disease beyond depression, including PTSD and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Goenjian's coauthors included Julia Bailey, Alan Steinberg, Uma Dandekar and Dr. Ernest Noble of UCLA; and David Walling and Devon Schmidt of the Collaborative Neuroscience Network. No external grants supported the study.
The Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior is an interdisciplinary research and education institute devoted to the understanding of complex human behavior, including the genetic, biological, behavioral and sociocultural underpinnings of normal behavior, and the causes and consequences of neuropsychiatric disorders. In addition to conducting fundamental research, the institute's faculty seeks to develop effective strategies for the prevention and treatment of neurological, psychiatric and behavioral disorder, including improvement in access to mental health services and the shaping of national health policy.
Elaine Schmidt | EurekAlert!
North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich
Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein
22.03.2018 | Universität Basel
An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.
The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...
In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.
Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...
Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.
They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...
A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...
For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.
In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...
19.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Event News
13.03.2018 | Event News
22.03.2018 | Materials Sciences
22.03.2018 | Health and Medicine
22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences