News / Health

Scientists Developing Blood Test for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Jessica Berman

There may some day be a blood test to determine whether someone suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or is at risk for the psychiatric condition.  Experts say such a test could lead to a treatment for PTSD, which is often seen in soldiers and others who experience severe trauma.  

Veterans who have seen a lot of death and destruction in armed conflict, survivors of natural disasters, and rape victims often suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.  These invisible psychological wounds are marked by emotional arousal, severe anxiety and depression as well as flashbacks and nightmares of the horrific event.  Even with therapy and antidepressants, the disorder is difficult to treat.

Now, researchers at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City have identified a blood marker that appears associated with PTSD.  

A pattern of gene activity involved in regulation of the stress hormone corticosterone was seen in the brain tissue of rats exposed to soiled cat litter for ten minutes.  Cats are a natural predator of rodents, which become fearful and anxious at the scent of feline waste.

The animals showed anxiety in a maze test and startled easily when exposed to loud noise.  

But some stressed-out rats were given corticosterone an hour after exposure to the cat scent, and researchers found that those rodents showed less arousal and anxiety compared to untreated rats one week after exposure to the litter.

Icahn neuroscientist Nikolaos Daskalakis says Swiss doctors noted that corticosterone had a calming effect in people who were given the hormone following automobile accidents.

“So, this was a serendipitous finding - that they observed that .. the ones who were under those treatments had lower chances to get psychiatric symptoms after," said Daskalakis.

Daskalakis says that finding may lead to the development of a test for PTSD risk. It would measure glucocorticoid receptor activity in the blood.  Those are genes that become activated in the presence of stress.  Like a key fitting into a lock, the hormone corticosterone, produced naturally by the body, connects to the receptor and has a calming effect.

In some rodents, and apparently in some people, the pathway appears to be defective, and this puts them at higher risk for PTSD.

“Hopefully we will end up having a treatment, yes.  But we need to do a lot of detailed biological studies in humans and in animals too to arrive there," said Daskalakis.

Daskalakis notes that Post-Traumatic Stress disorder not only affects the brain but the body’s regulation of the stress response.

An article on a potential blood test for PTSD is being published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  

 

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid