NYU investigative team on the trail of PTSD biomarkers

A group of investigators at New York University's medical school has launched an ambitious effort to define a group of biomarkers that could be used to quickly and easily diagnose complex cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and eventually even depression.

Up to now, psychiatric disorders have all been diagnosed using an extraordinarily inexact assessment of patient symptoms. But Dr. Charles R. Marmar, who chairs the psychiatry department at the NYU Langone Medical Center, believes such rough tactics can be dispensed with, according to a feature in The New York Times. And he has a $17 million grant to identify physiological biomarkers, testing hormone levels, blood chemistry, genetics, and so on. The goal is to design a quick test that's as simple and cheap as a pregnancy test to classify psychiatric disorders.

Such technology could help revolutionize the treatment of these disorders, not only matching patients with currently used therapies, but also helping identify and develop a new generation of therapies that would be much better than the ones in use today.

"You don't go from having shortness of breath to having cardiac surgery; you have a series of objective lab tests first," Marmar told The New York Times. "We would like to do the same thing with PTSD and T.B.I. That is, go beyond subjective reports."

A group of drug developers has dumped their work in the field--particularly with depression drugs--because of the tough odds in finding supporting data against placebos. A better diagnosis would allow developers to choose a more clearly defined patient population, with a better shot at proving they can meet an unmet need. 

- here's the article from The New York Times

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