New research highlights role of SKA2 gene in PTSD, suicide

A year ago, researchers at Johns Hopkins concluded that chemical alterations in the SKA2 gene appeared to be linked with a higher risk for suicide. And now a team spearheaded at Boston University has followed up, exploring biomarkers from the change-up in the SKA2 gene that could also be used to identify who might be most at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), the National Center for PTSD and the Translational Research Center for TBI and Stress Disorders at VA Boston Healthcare System came together and collected blood samples from 200 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. They concluded that methylation of the SKA2 gene is associated with decreased cortical thickness in the prefrontal cortex, which is one measure of neuronal health.

That conclusion could offer some potential insight into identifying which soldiers would be most at risk using a simple blood test.

PTSD is a major consideration for the U.S. military. The investigators note that in any given year, 11% to 20% of all recent war veterans experience PTSD.

"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," said Naomi Samimi Sadegh, an assistant professor of psychiatry at BUSM and a psychologist in the National Center for PTSD at VA Boston.

The study appears online in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

- here's the release
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