Dec 15, 2013
American soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder could soon be seeking solace in a new vaccine.
Researchers from MIT have discovered a possible vaccine capable of preventing PTSD, according to Fox News. The key is a hormone produced by the stomach, called ghrelin. As Ki Goosens, an assistant professor of neuroscience at MIT's McGovern Institute for Brain Research, told Fox News:
One of the really interesting things about ghrelin that was sort of unexpected...was that the background levels of ghrelin go up if an organism has experienced a period of prolonged stress. So the more stressed you are, the more ghrelin your stomach will churn out and so in that regard, it's a stress hormone.
Researchers were able to reduce fear in rats by blocking ghrelin receptors. The team is now collaborating on a clinical trial with the Massachusetts General Hospital to determine whether an individual expected to be exposed to trauma, if put on a drug that blocks ghrelin, could lower his or her chance of PTSD or depression.
Goosens assures the goal is not alter someone's personality or erase a bad experience, but rather help prevent any traumatic memories from turning into PTSD.
Currently, one in six soldiers returning home from Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from PTSD, meaning this breakthrough could change thousands of lives, as well as become part of a preventative strategy to solve other stress-associated diseases moving forward.