Blood test for PTSD on horizon as scientists find genetic changes in traumatised soldiers

A British soldier in Helmand province, Afghanistan, after a patrol. 

Post traumatic stress disorder could soon be diagnosed with simple blood test after scientists found crucial genetic changes in soldiers suffering from trauma after serving in Afghanistan.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by stressful or frightening events which can cause flashbacks, nightmares, depression, sleep problems and guilt.

Until now it could only be diagnosed through self-reported symptoms, which many victims, particularly servicemen, were reluctant to disclose.

But scientists at the University of Maastricht discovered crucial differences in the microRNA molecules of soldiers who had served time in Afghanistan.

Unlike DNA which provides the genetic code for functions in the body, microRNA regulates how active those genes are.

RNA circulates in the bloodstream and could be picked up through a test.

When they looked at eight Afghanistan veterans who had suffered trauma and developed PTSD they found differences in 40 microRNA molecules compared to soldiers who had not fought.

Servicemen who suffered trauma but did not develop PTSD only had differences in 27 molecules. Crucially miRNA can circulate throughout the human body and can be detected in the blood, so a blood test could pick up the abnormalities.

“Most of our stressful experiences don’t leave a long-lasting psychological scar,” said lead author Dr Laurence de Nijs, of Maastricht University, The Netheralands.

“However, for some people who experience chronic severe stress or really terrible traumatic events, the stress does not go away. They are stuck with it and the body’s stress response is stuck in ‘on’ mode. This can lead to the development of mental illness such as PTSD.

“These preliminary results of our pilot study suggest that miRNAs might indeed be candidates as predictive blood markers to distinguish between persons at high and low risk of developing PTSD.”

As well as military combat, people who have experienced serious road accidents, violent assaults, sexual abuse, neglect or terror attacks are also vulnerable to PTSD, which can occur weeks, months or even years after an incident.

PTSD is estimated to affect about 1 in every 3 people who have a traumatic experience, but it’s not clear exactly why some people develop the condition and others don’t. Individuals with PTSD are six times more at risk of committing suicide.

The results were presented at the annual meeting of the European College of Neuropharmacology in Paris.


16 thoughts on “Blood test for PTSD on horizon as scientists find genetic changes in traumatised soldiers”

  1. There is a possibility of a genetic element.
    However, the “environment” conditions which is the period of stress be exposed and the degree of stress are individually different, the data requires many cases.
    But if this help improve PTSD, it will be a great paper.
    The most important thing is not to be exposed PTSD … 😀

    1. Thank you for the explanation. Unfortunately, in combat you can get exposed to PTSD to a greater or lesser degree. In my own experience, witnessing horrific incidents and being a casualty, gave obvious indicators to my condition. In some cases witnessing a single event could bring on PTSD. I wonder if some of us are more susceptible to PTSD through genetic factors or environmental factors such as upbringing?

      1. The function of the frontal lobe of the brain is paying attention.
        PTSD is a self-defense response. People who do not cause the reaction may also have a feeling of hypo.
        Schizophrenia was said to have genetic factors,Now I don’t know.

        However, I think that elucidation of the workings of the brain is “impossible” forever.
        Because ,there is no data unless we must do a substantial number of “human experiments”.

        The more warm-heartedness ppl, the stronger reaction of PTSD.
        People who are self-disciplined are “personality”, they holds down the wounds of their hearts, so their symptoms worsen.
        The most urgent thing is to “To speak out terrible experiences or to express painting etc”and Someone accept all their feeling that their fear experience and self hate.
        and also use sleep medication etc.
        Those Care should be done with subsidies of the Nations,I think.

      2. That is a very accurate assessment of the Symptoms. There are three different types of PTSD. It depends on the type of trauma experienced and duration. Some get ‘short-term PTSD’ usually associated with something like a car crash. The symptoms last for around 1 month with treatment.
        Prolonged childhood trauma, often from a trusted adult can lead to ‘complex PTSD’ which often presents in adulthood.

        Combat PTSD or Combat trauma, can be treated but is often a chronic condition like mine and needs to be managed with medication (I take Lyrica, Sertraline, Valium and Propanolol), mindfulness exercises, EMDR therapy, Psychotherapy and trauma counselling. It is a daily struggle and completely controls your life – if you let it.

      3. If I can master English, there are many things I would like to talk ! !
        > I take Lyrica, Sertraline, Valium and Propanolol
        You have PTSD, too.!!
        You fought for your own Nation, don’t you,You must be really tired.
        Many people say to you “Thanks”? Is there guarantee from Nation?
        By the way,I can know that treatment of PTSD Not do special things.
        Medicine(drugs) is very common, many ways are control yourself, such as therapy.
        I have one question……Who will Listen carefully your feelings?

      4. No one listens. There are many charities, the government mental health service, counsellors and doctors. But all are under-funded. You have to work out how to get treatment yourself in the UK. So called ‘patient-led care’. It absolves mental health services and particularly the government from all responsibility, which is why so many veterans end up on the streets.

      5. In England, patient led care means that the patient decides what kind of treatment to choose when they are offered treatment by a doctor. For example; in my case, my doctor was joined by a nurse and an occupational therapist. The doctor gave me several options on what type of drugs/medication to take and advised me on how each medication would affect me – therefore I ‘led the care’ by making the decision to choose the drug regime. The nurse offered me counselling, psychotherapy, EMDR, group therapy, trauma therapy and many others, again I discussed it with her and I chose the group of therapies that we decided might work – this is why it is called ‘patient led care’, the patient (me), is involved in the decision-making process with the healthcare professionals. I hope that helps.

      6. Dr.richreynolds74,
        Don’t mention it,pls!!
        I learned a lot from you !!Great Thanks!!
        I can knew keywords”Patient led care”:D

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