Scientists at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis suggest that their findings could lead to more accurate diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)."Stress disorders, such as [PTSD]," they note in a Molecular Psychiatry paper about their study, "are prevalent, disabling, and underdiagnosed in both the military and civilian realm."They also propose that the "biomarker gene expression signatures" that they identified could help to identify more effective therapeutic compounds and improve the precision of treatments.In addition, testing blood samples for the genetic markers could help to identify people who might be at risk for future traumatic stress.For their investigation, the researchers recruited and followed more than 250 veterans who were receiving treatment at the Indianapolis VA Medical Center.
The 10-year study began with a robust series of steps to identify and then whittle down candidate genes to those that most precisely tracked stress levels. The team describes the steps as "discovery, prioritization, validation, and testing."While the data for the investigation came from a military population, senior study author Alexander B. Niculescu, who is a professor of psychiatry, says that the findings have "broader relevance for not just veterans but the general public.""Countless people," he adds, "are underdiagnosed with stress disorders, which may manifest themselves by drinking more, other addictions, suicide, or violence."