After conducting analysis of blood samples taken from people who served in active duty for the US Marines, researchers discovered a link between post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and genetic markers.
As part of the study, which was published this month in the Molecular Psychiatry journal, Dewleen Baker and colleagues from the University of California in San Diego drew blood from 188 Marines before being deployed to areas of conflict and then again after.
As a result, specific biomarkers associated with innate immune response were found. This response is what gives the body a first line of defense against various pathogens but also interferon signaling that goes hand-in-hand with PTSD.
PTSD is a mental condition that occurs after someone goes through a horrific situation or event that has violent assaults, something commonly seen by people in the military who are in active combat. However, PTSD can also affect people following terrible accidents and manmade disasters. Regardless, the triggers for PTSD are common among all the different situations.
According to Baker, genetic markers of innate immunity and interferon signaling were found prior to being deployed and after being PTSD developed. A second analysis was conducted on a second group of Marines with the same results.
As Baker explained, it is important to identify what it causing the interferon response to be stimulated before the development of this mental condition. This could be something simple as an individual having a higher level of anticipatory stress before going into active duty or it could be something far more complex, perhaps a above normal viral load.
Based on this discovery, researchers believe there is now an opportunity to find new ways to improve both diagnosis and treatment of PTSD but more importantly, to make accurate predictions as to who is at greatest risk. As an example, the networks for interferon signaling might have a molecular signature that can show high risk.
Without question, the findings of this study open the door to taking early preventative measures and more advanced detection for PTSD. Because of this, it might be possible to interrupt either the delay or retract the development.
The challenge is that studying PTSD is very different from other forms of mental health disorders since the trigger is a traumatic experience. Although researchers were unable to make differences between those participating in the study with PTSD and those without this condition, it does offer hope for early detection and better treatment.