September 6, 2011
New Research Could Bring First Drug To Fight PTSD
Researchers said on Monday they have identified a brain chemical related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that could lead to the first kind of drugs to treat the disorder.
Doctors currently use antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs to treat PTSD, but these are largely ineffective and were never specifically developed to treat the disorder.
"The medications we have these days are not working for PTSD," Dr. Alexander Neumeister of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, whose study appears in the Archives of General Psychiatry, said in a press release.
The researchers used imaging to study the specific differences in the brain between people who have PTSD and those who have had traumatic experiences but did not lead to PTSD.
Researchers performed positron emission tomography or PET scans of 49 PTSD patients whose conditions arose from a variety of traumatic events, such as childhood abuse, domestic violence and military service.
The team looked at the brains of 20 trauma victims with no PTSD and 27 healthy adult volunteers.
They found that people with PTSD had changes in the serotonin 1B receptor, which is a key neurotransmitter that appears to be especially sensitive to stress.
The researchers found that the serotonin 1B levels were substantially lower in patients with PTSD than in healthy patients.
The younger a person was when the trauma occurred, the bigger the difference.
"In those individuals who had early trauma in their life, we found the most severe alteration in the serotonin 1B receptor," Neumeister told Reuters.
The results offer the first step in developing drugs to combat PTSD.
"Currently, the only medical treatment options for the nearly 8 million American adults with PTSD are anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, which show little benefit in improving the mental health of these patients," Neumeister said in a press release.
He said several drug companies, such as Eli Lilly and Merck & Co already are exploring drugs that target this receptor, and other drug targets are being looked at as well.
"Hopefully in the near future we will have drugs that will interfere with this receptor," Neumeister said in a statement.
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