A cutting-edge blood test discovered by Indiana University School of Medicine researchers could help more accurately diagnose military veterans and other people experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, and potentially provide more precise treatments and prevention.
A study led by psychiatry professor Alexander Niculescu, MD, PhD, and published this week in the high-impact SpringerNature journal Molecular Psychiatry, tracked more than 250 veterans in over 600 visits at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis to identify molecules in the blood that can help track stress intensity. The researchers used a careful four-step approach of discovery, prioritization, validation and testing. According to Niculescu’s findings, the blood test can accurately identify people who are at risk of stress disorders or are experiencing them severely.
“PTSD is a disorder that affects a lot of veterans, especially those involved in combat. They deserve our gratitude and the very best care, and we are making every effort to deliver that. It’s also an underappreciated and underdiagnosed disorder among the civilian population, whether it be the result of abuse, rape, violence or accidents” said Niculescu, who worked with other Department of Psychiatry and VA researchers on the study, as well as collaborators at The Scripps Research Institute and University of California Irvine. “Countless people are underdiagnosed with stress disorders, which may manifest themselves by drinking more, other addictions, suicide or violence. Our research has broader relevance for not just veterans but the general public.”
The decade-long study looked at the expression of genes in the blood, starting with the entire genome, which has over 20,000 genes. Over the course of multiple visits, researchers tested participants in both low- and high-stress states—their blood analyzed for detectable changes in expression of genes between those two different states that could serve as biological markers (biomarkers) for stress. Researchers were able to narrow the study’s focus down to 285 individual biomarkers (related to 269 genes) that can objectively help diagnose patients with PTSD, as well as determine the severity of their stress and predict future hospitalizations.
They also compared these biomarkers with other well-known markers of stress and aging, such as telomer length. The biomarker signature helped identify new potential medications and natural substances to treat stress disorders that could be paired in a personalized way with individuals.
“There are similar tests like this in other fields, like cancer, where a physician can biopsy the affected part of the body to determine the stage of disease. But when it comes to mental health, biopsying the brain isn’t an option,” Niculescu said “Our research is applying similar concepts from other areas of medicine, but we’re engineering new ways that will allow us to track mental symptoms objectively, including stress, using blood, or so-called ‘liquid biopsies.’”
Much like with his recent breakthrough in developing a blood test to measure pain, and his past work on suicide, Niculescu said this research could be life-changing for individuals who have been exposed to or are about to enter high-stress environments. Such biomarkers will allow doctors to classify people in terms of their current severity or risk for future stress disorders, which can guide career choices as well as treatment options. Additionally, the biomarkers could measure response to treatment in an objective, quantifiable manner.
“Untreated pain and stress can lead to suicide, that’s how we became interested in these disorders, and decided to move upstream and see if we can better understand, treat and prevent them,” Niculescu said. “We think that one of the key uses of our research would be to test people before they have symptoms of an illness to see who’s at risk and possibly treat them early. It’s much better to prevent things for the person, and for the health care system, than to treat somebody who is in an acute crisis.”
With this study, Niculescu said the ultimate goal is prevention—pairing the ability to better predict those predisposed to PTSD with a more targeted approach to medicating those suffering from its affects. It’s preventive medicine done in a precise way, which aligns with the IU Precision Health Initiative launched in 2016.
“We want to prevent the needless tragedy and suffering in people’s lives. 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,” Niculescu said. “I have an excellent team and group of collaborators, and we are excited to partner with other groups of experts and people who can carry this forward. There is a lot of good work being done in the field right now.”
The study was supported by an NIH Director’s New Innovator Award and a VA Merit Award. Moving forward, Niculescu’s group looks to secure more funding through grants and private donations, as well collaborate with other institutions and organizations to advance these studies—with the hope that ultimately the cutting-edge tests developed at IU School of Medicine be implemented in clinical settings.
“If you treat a medical disorder in general, you improve someone’s quality of life; sometimes you save lives. But if you treat a mental health disorder, you can change somebody’s destiny,” said Niculescu, who is also a practicing psychiatrist at the VA and Indiana University Health. “You can help change someone from being a person who suffers, is unhappy, is unemployed—maybe goes down the route of addiction, violence or suicide—to somebody who can become a happy, well adjusted, productive member of society. That’s the challenge and the privilege—we can really change people’s destinies if we do our job.”
The Latest on: PTSD
via Google News
The Latest on: PTSD
- Preserved cortical thickness, surface area and volume in adolescents with PTSD after childhood sexual abuseon February 24, 2020 at 7:54 am
Almost all studies report lower cortical thickness, but in a broad variety of regions. In this study we investigated cortical thickness measures and clinical data in a well circumscribed group of ...
- Community members ‘walk and ride’ for veterans with PTSDon February 23, 2020 at 5:18 pm
MIDLAND, Tx. (KOSA) - On average, there are 22 veterans a day who struggle and take their own lives. These 22 veterans are why a group in the Permian Basin is riding and running -- to show those who ...
- War Vets With Severe PTSD Find Solace Through Ayahuasca In Documentary ‘From Shock To Awe’on February 23, 2020 at 10:14 am
Here’s a figure that should be seared into the minds of every living American: 22. That’s the shocking number of United States war veterans who commit suicide every single day. Let that number sink in ...
- 4 Factors That May Lower PTSD Risk and Bolster Resilienceon February 22, 2020 at 2:07 pm
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) statistics vary depending on the source, but while the majority of people experience at least one traumatic event over the course of a lifetime, only a fraction ...
- 4 Protective Factors Lower PTSD Risk and Bolster Resilienceon February 22, 2020 at 9:12 am
PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) statistic vary depending on source, but while up the majority of people experience at least one traumatic event over the course of a lifetime, only a fraction ...
- Long Beach musician, educator premieres rock opera about PTSDon February 21, 2020 at 4:31 pm
“The main character thought that going to war would be that thing that would make him a hero and impress his dad,” DeWitt added. “When he comes back with PTSD and his life starts crumbling, now he’s ...
- Bill to give first responders workers comp for PTSD clears Houseon February 21, 2020 at 4:30 pm
After three years of vetting from seven different committees, the West Virginia House of Delegates on Friday unanimously passed House Bill 2321 to permit first responders to take workers compensation ...
- G Herbo's "PTSD" Tracklist Features Juice WRLD, 21 Savage & Moreon February 21, 2020 at 10:37 am
As you might recall, Herbo and Juice WRLD were particularly close and the latter's death took a heavy toll on Herbo's mindstate. It wouldn't be surprising to see "PTSD" emerge as an emotional standout ...
- Anxiety, depression and PTSD: The hidden epidemic of data breaches and cyber crimeson February 21, 2020 at 2:00 am
After a restorative getaway last July – a week in Stockholm, another exploring Norway’s fjords and a picturesque hike deep into the peaceful wilds of western Sweden’s forests – Christopher Lane ...
- Gila County Cop Attacked by Gunman Can Get Workers' Comp For PTSD, Court Ruleson February 19, 2020 at 12:35 pm
"The claim was denied wrongfully by Gila County and justice has been done.” France was not immediately available for comment. At issue was not whether PTSD is covered under workers' compensation. It ...
via Bing News