Summary: PTSD is quite a complex disorder. However, studies show that there are massive individual sensitivities. If a group of people is exposed to a similar kind of trauma, some may develop PTSD, and others not. New studies show that these differences are due to genetics. It also impacts the extent of post traumatic stress disorder treatment. Some people are more resilient. Although changing genes is not possible, altering gene expression through epigenetic alterations is possible. A new study shows that those prone to PTSD have low levels of an enzyme called DNMT3A, causing DNA methylation. This enzyme can be increased by using a supplement for brain health that can donate methyl groups S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) along with vitamin A.
PTSD is more common than we imagine. It often results due to exposure to some traumatic experience. For those living with PTSD, life may be quite difficult, especially considering that there is no effective treatment for the condition.
However, researchers also know that individual sensitivities matter a lot. For example, when two individuals are exposed to similar trauma, one may develop PTSD, and the other not. Therefore, researchers are interested in knowing what makes some people resilient.
Of course, much here is explained by genetic differences between individuals, and changing genes is not possible. However, new studies show that although genes might not be altered, their activity level can be modulated. It is possible to activate certain genes and make other genes less active. This is called “epigenetic alterations.”
Epigenetic alterations occur in all of us during our lifetime. Hence, genes are continually being modulated. However, since changing genes is not an option, researchers are especially paying attention to ways of modulating gene activity. They are exploring new ways of making epigenetic changes.
New studies show that in some people, exposure to trauma in their early life results in “epigenetic alterations,” which is the cause of PTSD. Analysis of the DNA of humans living with PTSD confirms these epigenetic changes.
A research team led by Prof. Gal Yadid of the Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences and Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center, Bar-Ilan University, studied this question. They used animal models to understand how certain epigenetic changes in the brain cause PTSD. Their findings were published in the Nature journal of Molecular Psychiatry.
Epigenetic changes leading to changes in gene activity occur due to a process called DNA methylation. Hence, the researchers studied the epigenetic differences between the mouse models exposed to trauma and developed PTSD signs and those that were resilient.
They found that an enzyme called DNMT3A, which is responsible for DNA methylation, is reduced in animals susceptible to PTSD. It means that increasing the levels of this particular enzyme may make them more resilient. Additionally, they also found that the activity of this particular enzyme is influenced by retinoid acid receptors, which are activated by vitamin A.
They further found that introducing DNMT3A or retinoic acid orphan receptor genes in animal brains could help in post traumatic stress disorder treatment. Hence, confirming the underlying mechanism that predisposes some animals to the condition.
Of course, unlike in animal models, injecting humans with specific genes is not possible. Similarly, editing genes is still not a viable option. However, using certain substances to carry out epigenetic alterations in genes is among the most feasible options.
They found a way to increase DNMT3A by using natural ingredients that can donate methyl groups S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). And to further activate retinoic acid receptors, they injected animals with vitamin A. They found that such a combination was quite effective at reversing PTSD.
This is among the first such findings showing new treatments for PTSD using natural ingredients. Since epigenetic treatments can change the underlying causes of the disorders, such a treatment can cure PTSD and not just provide symptomatic relief. This could be one of the first treatments to provide prolonged relief to those living with PTSD. Coupled with PTSD counseling, medication is going to show some optimum results.
Moreover, these nutritional ingredients used to treat PTSD are well-known to science and are non-toxic. It means that nutritional supplements containing these organic compounds can be readily introduced to clinical practice.
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