New Study Finds Genetic Marker Linked with PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is linked to a traumatic experience that triggers the condition. Now researchers from the University of California, San Diego, have discovered a genetic marker with a direct link to the often-disabling condition that could aid in diagnosis, treatment, and even prevention of PTSD.

The researchers studied blood samples from 188 members of the United States Marine Corps before and after their deployment. The Marines had been deployed to conflict zones where PTSD often develops after witnessing extreme violence.

The study allowed the research team to identify biomarkers that are associated with innate immune responses both before and after the development of PTSD. They were able to replicate the results by studying a second group of Marines.

Researcher Dewleen Baker said, "The question to ask is what's stimulating an interferon response prior to PTSD development. The answer could be any number of factors, ranging from a simple explanation of increased anticipatory stress prior to deployment or more complex scenarios where individuals may have a higher viral load."

Isolating those factors could lead to a blood test for diagnosing the condition and also for predicting which individuals might be most susceptible to developing it.

Although PTSD is often linked to military personnel, it can be triggered by virtually any traumatic event. Common triggers include violent crimes such as rape or kidnapping, surviving a major accident or natural disaster, or being victimized through domestic abuse. Overall it affects nearly eight million Americans.

PTSD has a severe effect on its victims' lives. They typically experience symptoms such as always being on high alert, flashing back to the traumatic event, and avoiding situations that could lead to dangerous memories. Treatments include counseling, medication, and service dogs trained to recognize and interrupt the onset of symptoms.

Genes and the interplay of brain chemicals are already causal suspects for PTSD, and the new research by Baker's team is shedding more light on the role those factors play.