Medical researchers say they have discovered a possible "vaccine" for post-traumatic stress disorder that could protect soldiers in battle by regulating one of the body's own hormones.
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology report in a new paper that ghrelin, a hormone produced during stressful situations, primes the brain for PTSD. They believe that by controlling ghrelin, they can also prevent the formation of PTSD after traumatic events.
"You would get a shot, and for a year it would lower your ghrelin levels," said Ki Gossens, assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT, and an author of the paper in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, which is appearing this week. "When you were deployed and exposed to the stress of combat, your ghrelin levels would go up and the vaccine would combat that. That should reduce the incidence of PTSD. Right now, we don't have anything to prevent it."
Scientists had previously known that ghrelin makes you hungrier and dubbed it the "hunger hormone." It was the target of research by drug companies who wanted a cure for obesity, but none of that work was successful. However, Gossens said her group has found that ghrelin also may make people more susceptible to PTSD.