(JESUSALEM -- February 02, 2005) -- Researchers at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem have discovered that a simple blood test might enable psychiatrists to predict if a person will develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), while still in the emergency room, a few hours after the traumatic event occurred.
PTSD is characterized by symptoms such as sleeping disorders, difficulty in concentrating, irritability, nightmares and flashbacks to the traumatic event. These symptoms may present themselves and persist months and years after the initial event.
The results of the first-ever findings, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, describe how the researchers discovered a physiological signature in peripheral blood cells of activities that mainly take place in the brain. Using innovative methodology, they simultaneously examined thousands of possible markers.
The test group included 24 people who were diagnosed as “shock casualties” in the emergency room after experiencing a traumatic event, and 12 of whom developed PTSD four months afterwards. One set of blood tests was done while the patient was in the emergency room and a second set four months later. The laboratory examination revealed hundreds of markers for PTSD in those who suffered from it, and no markers in the healthy group.
The researchers believe that after some refinement of the testing process, it will be possible to predict PTSD symptoms. Hadasit, the Hadassah subsidiary that promotes and commercializes intellectual properties generated at Hadassah, has already patented the findings of the research and is in advanced stages of developing a commercial diagnostic kit for PTSD.
“Now that we have found the signals, we are going to concentrate on detecting the genes, to shed more light on the biological processes in our bodies that cause mental diseases, and from this to develop ways to prevent such diseases,” said Prof. Arie Shalev, head of Hadassah's Department of Psychiatry, who led the research with Dr. Ronen Segman of the psychiatric laboratory at Hadassah University Hospital-Mt. Scopus. Lab work was carried out by Dr. Segman and Tanya Goltzer-Dubner. Prof. Nir Friedman and Noa Shefi, of the Hebrew University’s Department of Computer Science, ran the computerized digitations of the data, and Prof. Naftali Kaminski, of Chaim Sheba Medical Center, helped in the laboratory aspects of the research.