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Genetic source for PTSD


A new study from UCLA may explain why some people are susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and others are not – even after experiencing the same traumatic event.

Scientists have linked two genes involved in serotonin production to a higher risk of PTSD. The findings suggest the susceptibility is inherited. This may lead to new ways of screening and treating the devastating disorder.

“People can develop post-traumatic stress disorder after surviving a life-threatening ordeal like war, rape or a natural disaster,” said lead author Armen Goenjian, a research professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. “If confirmed, our findings could eventually lead to new ways to screen people at risk for PTSD and target specific medicines for preventing and treating the disorder.”

PTSD can arise as a result of a wide range of events: child abuse, terrorist attacks, sexual or physical assault, major accidents, natural disasters and exposure to combat. Sometimes it occurs after simply witnessing a terrifying event. Symptoms can include nightmares, flashbacks, and avoidance of situations that cause stress.

Study subjects experienced 1988 Armenian earthquake

Goenjian extracted DNA of 200 adults from several generations of 12 extended families. These families all suffered PTSD symptoms after surviving the 1988 earthquake in Armenia. Researchers found the persons who possessed specific variants of two genes were more likely to develop the disease. These genes control production of serotonin, a brain chemical that regulates mood and alertness.

“We suspect that the gene variants produce less serotonin, predisposing thee family members to PTSD after exposure to violence or disaster,” stated Goenjian.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Journal of Affective Disorders

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