Friday Factoids: Study Identifies Two Genes that Boost the Risk for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

 

How much do you know about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? By now, it would appear that the general population has heard of this disorder and are aware of what it is at least on a fairly rudimentary level.

 

PTSD currently affects approximately 7 % of the population of the United States and has become a pressing health issue for veterans of war. Have you ever wondered about such variables as the threshold for what will cause PTSD? For instance, two people could experience the same motor vehicle collision, yet only one of them may develop PTSD symptoms. Why is that? Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have recently linked two gene variants to PTSD. This suggests that hereditary factors can influence an individual’s risk of developing PTSD. These new findings could provide a biologically based approach for diagnosing and treating PTSD more effectively. 

 

Dr. Armen Goenjian and his team discovered two genes, COMT and TPH-2, which are linked to PTSD. These two genes play important roles in brain function. COMT is an enzyme that degrades dopamine, a neurotransmitter that assists in regulating thinking, mood, attention, and behavior, as well as controlling the brain’s pleasure and reward centers. TPH-2 controls the production of serotonin, a brain hormone that regulates mood, alertness, and sleep–all areas that are disrupted by PTSD. Dr. Goenjian and his team found significant associations between variants of COMT and TPH-2 with symptoms of PTSD. This may be indicative that these genes contribute to both the onset and the persistence of PTSD.

 

The results yielded from the study suggest that individuals that carry the genetic variants of COMT and TPH-2 may be at a higher risk of developing PTSD after a traumatic event. Now that scientists have begun to develop new ways of assessing risk factors for PTSD, what benefits do you believe can come from it? Would examination of these two genes play a role in recruitment criteria for the armed forces? Let me know what you think.

 

References
Goenijian, A., Noble, E., Stenberg, A., Walling, D., Stepanyan, S., Dandekar, S., and Bailey, J. (2015). Association of COMT and TPH-2 genes with DSM-5 based PTSD symptoms. Journal of Affective Disorders, 172.

 

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences. (2015, January 9). Study identifies two genes that boost risk for post-traumatic stress disorder. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 12, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150109123321.htm

 

Faisal Roberts, MA
WKPIC Doctoral Intern

 

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