Million Veteran Program sheds light on PTSD genes

Study used data on more than 165,000 MVP volunteers


shadow

A VA Million Veteran Program study identified locations in the human genome related to the risk of re-experiencing traumatic memories, the most distinctive symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder.

Researchers from the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, Yale University School of Medicine, the VA San Diego Healthcare System, and the University of California San Diego collaborated with colleagues on the study of more than 165,000 Veterans.

The results appeared in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

PTSD is usually considered to have three main clusters of symptoms: re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal. Avoidance and hyperarousal are common to other anxiety conditions as well, but re-experiencing is largely unique to PTSD. Re-experiencing refers to intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks.

The researchers compared the genomes of 146,660 white Veterans and 19,983 black Veterans who had volunteered for MVP.

The study revealed eight separate regions in the genome associated with re-experiencing symptoms among the white Veterans. It did not show any significant regions for black Veterans, considered separately as a group, because there were far fewer black study participants available, making it harder to draw conclusions.

Results were replicated using a sample from the UK Biobank.

The results showed genetic overlap between PTSD and other conditions. For example, two genes previously linked to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were implicated. This could mean that the hallucinations experienced in schizophrenia may share common biochemical pathways with the nightmares and flashbacks of people with PTSD.

The study also revealed genetic links to hypertension. It is possible that hypertension drugs that affect these same genes could be effective for treating PTSD.

Taken together, the results “provide new insights into the biology of PTSD,” say the researchers. The findings have implications for understanding PTSD risk factors, as well as identifying new drug targets.

To read more about this study, visit VA Research Currents.

Author

Tristan Horrom

Tristan Horrom is a writer and editor for VA’s Office of Research and Development. He joined VA in 2009. Tristan holds a master’s degree in professional writing from Towson University in Maryland

Comments

  1. Robert Macfarlane    

    Very interesting. I also have PTSD and this article should reinforce our duty to encourage other veterans to get involved in the MVP.

  2. Chad Childers    

    Very interesting article. I have PTSD and this gives me a lot to think about.

  3. kristie sheets    

    Considering the long term neurological side effects of Mefloquine how many of these “PTSD” veterans were pre-screened for Mefloquine exposure? Until we recognize exposure in our veterans from Somolia to present, every study regarding PTSD is compromised.

  4. Al Leyba    

    Your info on Mental Health therapy is very interesting and helpful. Keep this type of information coming.

Comments are closed.