Individuals affected with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) demonstrate changes in microRNA (miRNA) molecules associated with gene regulation. A controlled study, involving military personnel on deployment to a combat zone in Afghanistan, provided evidence for the role of blood-based miRNAs as candidate biomarkers for symptoms of PTSD. This may offer an approach towards screening for symptoms of PTSD, and holds promise for understanding other trauma-related psychiatric disorders. Limitations of the study are that it was a small pilot study, and the findings need to be validated, extended, and confirmed. First results were to be presented at the 30th Annual ECNP Conference in Paris (September 2-5). ECNP is the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology. PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can manifest following exposure to a traumatic event, such as combat, assault, or natural disaster. Among individuals exposed to traumatic events, only a minority of individuals will develop PTSD, while others will show resiliency. Little is known of the mechanisms behind these different responses. The last few years have seen much attention given to whether the modification and expression of genes - epigenetic modifications - might be involved. But there are several practical and ethical challenges in designing a research study on humans undergoing such experiences, meaning that designing relevant study approaches is difficult.
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