A team of researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine have developed a new blood test from a cluster of genetic markers that could lead to more accurate diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Researchers recruited over 250 military veterans who were treated at the Indianapolis VA Medical Center and followed them as part of a 10-year study.
Initially, the study began by looking for stress-related genes in the blood samples gathered from veterans. Upon examining blood samples in participants in both low and high-stress states, researchers focused on 285 individual biomarkers linked to 269 genes. They were then compared to other markers of stress.
Health records and psychiatric test results were cross-examined in independent groups within participants from the study. The results showed that particular genetic markers were predictive of high-stress states and of future psychiatric visitations associated with stress.
The findings demonstrate how biomarker signatures could help spot which natural and synthetic compounds with the possibility of treating PTSD symptoms could benefit patients the most.
“Half of the top predictive biomarkers for stress also had prior evidence of involvement in suicide, and the majority of them had evidence in other psychiatric disorders, providing a molecular underpinning for the effects of stress in those disorders,” the study found.
“In conclusion, our studies identified new biological underpinnings of psychological stress and provide important leads toward novel diagnostics and targeted therapeutics for devastating stress-related disorders, such as PTSD.”
Based on the findings, researchers theorize that the biomarker gene expression signatures may lead to more effective therapeutic compounds and better treatment for PTSD.
“By understanding in a biological way a patient’s illnesses and their mental health challenges, we could treat what they have better, preventing future episodes.”
The findings were published in Molecular Psychiatry.