A team of scientists have discovered a receptor on the surface of brain cells plays a huge role in how humans, as well as animals, respond to stress. The find could well be a biomarker of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) too.
"We have found that a specific cell receptor promotes resilience to the adverse effects of stress in animals," study author Seema Bhatnagar, a neuroscientist in the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), told a news portal. Adding, "Because we found links to the same receptor in patients with PTSD, we may have insights into developing more effective treatments for human psychiatric disorders."
For the study, the team focused their investigation on pid molecule found on cell membranes, called the sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor 3 (S1PR3), which are active in various cellular processes like inflammation. "We found that manipulating SIRPR3 levels affected how well animals cope with stress," Bhatnagar told a news portal.
The team also used validated behavioural tools for their investigation, like forced swim tests and social defeat tests, to understand how rats cope with stress. Those who coped passively were deemed to be vulnerable. Meanwhile, those who coped more actively were classified as resilient. When the team made adjustments to the expression of the S1PR3 gene, it increased stress-resilient behaviours.
The team also conducted tests on patients at the Veterans Affairs hospital to measureS1PR3 levels in the blood. Lower levels of S1PR3 were found in veterans with PTSD. Patients who had a severe form of PTSD had even lower levels of S1PR3.
"Our findings in both laboratory models and patients suggest that this protein is a potential blood-based biomarker for PTSD," Bhatnagar told a news portal. Adding, " "If we can establish that SIPR3 or related sphingolipid receptors are valid biomarkers for PTSD and other stress-related disorders, we may have a new tool to predict a person's risk for PTSD, or to predict the severity of a patient's symptoms. It may help us to better evaluate potential treatments, and perhaps to design better treatments."
While more research is needed to back up the findings, researchers hope the discovery could leave to the development of better treatment options for stress and anxiety.
The study's findings were originally published in the journal Nature Communications.
Picture Courtesy: Google Images