Discovery of a New Peptide may Help in Preventing PTSD Cases

The research carried out by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has led to the discovery of a unique protein complex in patients who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The details about this discovery are provided by a study presented in the “Journal of Clinical Investigation” and has paved the way for treatment and prevention of PTSD. Dr Fang Liu is Co-director and Professor of Division of Neuroscience and Clinical Translation in University of Toronto’s Department of Psychiatry.

Also, she is Head of Molecular Neuroscience and Senior Scientist in the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute of CAMH. She has worked along with her team and discovered a protein complex whose quantity is elevated in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Later on, the research team also found a peptide that targets this protein complex, thus leading to its disruption. The early tests for the investigation of this peptide showed that it has the ability to avoid encoding and recollection of the fear memories.

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This indicates the possible role of the newly discovered peptide in curing the symptoms of PTSD or preventing them completely. According to Dr Liu statement, this unique Glucocorticoid Receptor-FKBP51 protein complex offers insight regarding molecular processes that result in the development of PTSD.

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The research team believes that there is an increase in the level of this protein complex after an individual faces severe stress. But most of the time, the quantity of this complex quickly returns towards baseline levels.

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In contrast to this, in individuals who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, there is a persistent elevation in the blood levels of this protein complex. Due to this reason, this complex can be used as a biomarker for the diagnosis of PTSD or as a target for its treatment therapy.

Additionally, Dr Liu stated that the use of peptide after going through a traumatic event has the potential to prevent or lower the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder. This new and completely different approach can not only provide an understanding of PTSD but also of other psychiatric disorders.

Post-traumatic stress disorder can be observed in individuals after they witness or experience shocking or disturbing events, such as sexual assault. In PTSD, patients may experience anxiety attacks, nightmares, and devastating flashbacks.

All of these have a severe influence on the patient’s quality of life. At present, there are no laboratory tests available to diagnose PTSD. Moreover, the current methods for its treatment also have a little efficiency.

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The latest study presented in the “British Journal of Psychiatry” has analyzed 24 different countries to check the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder. The findings have shown that the highest prevalence of this disorder is in Canada, where 9.2 % of the population will have PTSD at least once in their life.

According to Dr Liu, the breakthrough in PTSD by CAMH has the potential to facilitate millions of individuals in leaving their trauma behind them. Before leading any human clinical trials, further refinement and testing of the discovered peptide will be done by Dr Liu and her team.