Research led by Ya-Ping Tang, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, has found that the action of a specific gene occurring during exposure to adolescent trauma is critical for the development of adult-onset Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.) The findings are published in PNAS Online Early Edition the week of April 1-5, 2013.
"This is the first study to show that a timely manipulation of a certain neurotransmitter system in the brain during the stage of trauma exposure is potentially an effective strategy to prevent the pathogenesis of PTSD," notes Dr. Tang.
The research team conducted a series of experiments using a specific strain of transgenic mice, in which the function of the gene can be suppressed, and then restored. The model combined exposure to adolescent trauma as well as an acute stressor. Clinically PTSD may occur immediately following a trauma, but in many cases, a time interval may exist between the trauma and the onset of disease. Exposure to a second stress or re-victimization can be an important causative factor. However, the researchers discovered that exposure to both adolescent trauma and to acute stress was not enough to produce consistent PTSD-like behavior. When exposure to trauma and stress was combined with the function of a specific transgene called CCKR-2, consistent PTSD-like behavior was observed in all of the behavioral tests, indicating that the development of PTSD does not depend only on the trauma itself.