Researchers from several top organizations including Boston University Medical Center, the Boston University School of Medicine, VA Boston Healthcare System Translational Research Center for TBI and Stress Disorders, and the National Center for PTSD have identified a gene which may help predict PTSD severity in veterans. During the research study the gene identified, the spindle and kinetochore-associated complex subunit 2 gene or SKA2 for short, seemed to predict PTSD symptoms which were more severe and a thinner cortex in brain regions which regulated strong emotions and coping with experiences which are stressful. Many believe that this study is the very first to show that this specific gene could play an important role in PTSD development. The study details and findings can be found in the online version of the Molecular Psychiatry journal.
Using genes to predict PTSD severity could be extremely beneficial for the veteran community, as well as others who have experienced this mental disorder. Between 11% and 20% of veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom have been diagnosed with PTSD and have experienced episodes in a given year, and war zone trauma as well as other factors increase the risk of suicide by veterans with PTSD. Study participants had blood samples taken and they underwent MRI scans to evaluate a specific chemical change in the SKA2 gene function and any psychological symptoms. Researchers were trying to find out whether this chemical change could predict brain cortex thickness and the development of depression, PTSD, and other psychological symptoms. Researchers concluded that “These findings suggest that in the future it may be possible to use a genetic blood test to identify military personnel at risk for developing PTSD in response to warzone stressors. We hope these findings will ultimately enhance our ability to identify individuals who are at risk for this disorder by using information about biology to improve diagnosis.”