Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine in the US have discovered a blood test that could track stress intensity and help diagnose people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The test is expected to enable more precise treatments and prevention of the condition.
A study conducted by the team monitored more than 250 veterans over 600 visits to identify stress biomarkers in their blood. They analysed the expression of genes in low and high stress states.
Around 285 biomarkers associated with 269 genes were identified to objectively help diagnose PTSD patients, determine stress severity and predict future hospitalisations.
The researchers also compared the biomarkers with other well-known markers of stress and ageing. The biomarker signature helped direct new potential medications and natural substances that could treat stress disorders in a personalised manner.
Based on data from the study, the team claimed that the new test accurately detects people that are at risk of stress disorders.
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Indiana University School of Medicine psychiatry professor Alexander Niculescu said: “There are similar tests like this in other fields like cancer where a physician can biopsy the affected part of the body to determine the stage of disease. But when it comes to mental health, biopsying the brain isn’t an option.
“Our research is applying similar concepts from other areas of medicine, but we’re engineering new ways that will allow us to track mental symptoms objectively, including stress, using blood, or so-called liquid biopsies.”
Niculescu added that the study was intended to facilitate prevention by combining the prediction of people predisposed to PTSD with a more targeted approach to treat those already suffering its effects.