recent developments are closing in on biomarkers for ptsd. so, what does that mean to me and other people dealing with depression on other mental disorders? read on for the answer.
first a little primer. biomarkers generally refer to a measurable indicator of some biological state or condition. in the genetics world that would mean that the spot or spots on the chromosomes that are responsible for some given trait have been found. since there are some 3 billion genes, a significant number of people carrying a certain trait would have to have a matching gene or gene set to be considered a reliable biomarker..
the recent development came about with a study the u.s. army did on some soldiers. they drew blood on both ends of a three month deployment to afghanistan for a number of soldiers. the blood draw showed an increased level of interferon. interferon usually indicates the presence of some biological attack such as a virus, bacteria or tumor. in this cased the increased levels of interferon likely came from increased levels of stress. the genes that control the production of interferon are pretty well understood. they do not make a perfect set of markers for ptsd, but they would make a good starting place.
what would it mean to soldiers heading into battle? with a good set of markers, they would have a better chance to not deploy soldiers who might be likely to develop ptsd. this, in the end, might lower the cost of deployment since the cost of post care of ptsd ends up to be rather high. additionally and potentially, knowing the biomarkers would allow for a more targeted approach in the development of drugs to counter ptsd.
what would in mean for you you and me and the number of people who suffer with mental disorder? depression, bipolar disorder and other mental disorders might have similar biomarkers as ptsd. once a good set of biomarkers has been developed for any mental disorder, potentially, the diagnosis of a mental disorder would be just a cheek swab away. also, a known set of biomarkers might allow for a more targeted approach in the development of drugs for any given mental disorders.
for that reason, i see a slight increase of hope because researches are making some positive steps in understanding the biomarkers of ptsd, one type of mental disorder. perhaps those discoveries can be easily applied to the other mental disorders and bring relief to me and the millions of people like me who suffer with mental disorders.
in the words of dr. charles r. marmar, chairman of the psychiatry department at nyu langone medical center, from a new york times article, “We want to elevate mental health to standard physical health.” to which i say about efeing time!
If you like to get totally geeked out in science, do check out nih paper discussing in much more detail some of the recent advancement in biomarker for ptsd.