Two Genetic Variants Linked to PTSD

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Two genetic variants have been linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), indicating a heredity risk of developing the disorder, according to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

People with PTSD usually develop the disorder after surviving a life-threatening event, including war, rape, or a natural disaster. However, not everyone who experiences the same event will develop the condition. The researchers wanted to determine if PTSD had some genetic aspects that would influence a person’s risk of developing the condition.

In 1988, a magnitude 6.8 earthquake devastated Armenia with a death toll of over 25,000. After the disaster, researcher Armen Goenjian, MD, of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at the University of California, Los Angeles, traveled to Armenia and established two psychiatric clinics to treat earthquake survivors. He received permission to take blood samples from 12 families. The samples from 200 individuals were sent to UCLA, where they were analyzed for genetic markers.

The study focused on two genes: COMT and TPH-2. COMT is an enzyme that degrades the neurotransmitter dopamine, and TPH-2 controls the production of serotonin, also a neurotransmitter. After analyzing the blood samples, the researchers found a significant association between variants in these two genes and PTSD symptoms.

The researchers hope that these new genetic indicators will create the potential for targeted screenings and new treatments. They add that there are likely other genes that contribute to PTSD, and more studies should be conducted to identify them.

Two Genetic Variants Linked to PTSD
Two Genetic Variants Linked to PTSD

Why do some people develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while others who suffered the same ordeal do not? A new UCLA discovery may shed light on the answer.

UCLA scientists have linked two gene variants to the debilitating mental disorder, suggesting that heredity influences a person's risk of developing PTSD. Published in the February 2015 edition of the Journal of Affective Disorders, the findings could provide a biological basis for diagnosing and treating PTSD more effectively in the future.

"Many people suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder after surviving a life-threatening ordeal like war, rape or a natural disaster," explained lead author Dr. Armen Goenjian, a researcher at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. "But not everyone who experiences trauma suffers from PTSD. We investigated whether PTSD has genetic underpinnings that make some people more vulnerable to the syndrome than others."

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