War veterans have helped scientists of South Ural State University identify biological indicators, which signal whether people have a post-traumatic stress disorder or a susceptibility to it. The research results are published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research(Q1) top-rated scientific journal.

In their research works on studying post-traumatic stress disorder, the representatives of the SUSU School of Medical Biology have reached a new level. Earlier, they used an experimental method of stimulating post-traumatic stress disorder in rats and tracking changes in their bodies.

The work began back in 2016. More than a hundred people became participants, including patients of the Chelyabinsk Regional Clinical Therapeutic Hospital for War Veterans and combat action participants who had not been diagnosed with the disorder. The scientists conducted clinical interviews with each participant and used diagnostic scales to assess the severity of the condition. At the same time, blood samples were taken to compare the changes in the body and determine the markers of PTSD.

“All participants of the research were separated from traumatic events by a long time interval: at least 10 years. We managed to find out that even after a long time, the levels of cortisol and gamma-aminobutyric acid differed from the reference values. Gamma-aminobutyric acid appeared to be the most sensitive indicator, it can be considered as a marker of a long-lasting PTSD. A low acid level was demonstrated in a group of people susceptible to stress,” says Vadim Tseylikman, PhD, DSc, director of the SUSU School of Medical Biology.

All of those who had experienced traumatic events had elevated cortisol levels. It was this discovery that allowed the researchers to once again prove that despite extensive experimental studies of PTSD, the structure of the disease is not homogeneous.

“Thanks to this research, conducted by the Molecular Genetic Studies of Health and Well-Being Laboratory headed by Inna Feklicheva and by our colleagues from the Netherlands, Dr. Marco Boks and Dr. Ron de Kloet, we are now able to predict whether a person would be susceptible to PTSD or resistant to the disease after combat stress judging by the changes in blood plasma,” adds Tseylikman.

The international team of scientists intends to continue the work and now consider changes in the genomic profile of people who have experienced traumatic events. The remaining blood samples will be examined. The SUSU’s consortium partner, the Institute of Cytology and Genetics of Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, will be engaged in this work.