PTSD: Genetic link could lead to vet drug treatment

VCS ED quoted 

From the New Haven Register

By Peggy McCarthy, Conn. Health I-Team Writer

A recent study that discovered a genetic link to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) could ultimately lead to breakthroughs in treatment or prevention, but advances are at least a decade away because additional research is needed, according to the study’s lead researcher.

Ultimately, there could be significant implications for the military where PTSD prevalence is estimated to be at least twice that of the general population because of severe trauma associated with combat duty.

“We’re onto something important,” said Mark W. Miller, Ph.D, the researcher. Miller is a clinical research psychologist in Boston for the VA’s National PTSD Center, and is an associate professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine. But he said studies with more participants that replicate his findings are needed before talking about “policy implications or screening or anything like that.”

Dr. Joel Gelernter, a Yale psychiatrist and chief of the VA’s Molecular Genetics lab in West Haven, was not involved in this study, but does research on the genetics of PTSD. He said if the Boston study results are replicated in future research, it opens the possibility for much-needed, new drug development for treatment of PTSD.

“Drug development is a very promising avenue for research if this line of evidence pans out,” Gelernter said, adding that now, there is “nothing really fantastic” available to treat PTSD.

According to Miller, the study, which began in 2006, is the first of its kind for PTSD because it was genome-wide, which means it analyzed the entire genetic makeup of participants, giving researchers 1.5 million pieces of genetic data per person.

It was conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD and the BU School of Medicine. Researchers interviewed and took DNA samples from about 500 participants comprised of veterans and their spouses or partners. All participants have experienced trauma, and about half have PTSD.

Participants with PTSD were found to share a variant of a gene known in scientific shorthand as RORA. The same variant had previously been linked to a range of other psychiatric conditions, including bipolar disorder, autism, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Patrick Bellon, executive director of the advocacy group, Veterans For Common Sense, said the study is significant for veterans. “We are glad to see research that furthers our understanding and possible treatment options for PTSD,” he said. “This research is more important than ever with approximately 1 million new veterans returning to civilian life in the next five years. A complete understanding of this invisible wound of war, which afflicts at least 20 percent of veterans will be crucial to a successful transition for our service members.”

Gelernter, professor of psychiatry, genetics and neurobiology at the Yale School of Medicine, said, “One of the most exciting things about this study and studies of this kind is they can provide a new window into the biology of this disorder and that is really an exciting possibility.” Continued…

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