Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) say they may have found a way to prevent the formation of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a Seeker article reports.
This could be achieved by regulating a hormone called ghrelin, which the body produces when stressed. Grehlin is known as the “hunger hormone” and was recently connected to the brain’s “fight or flight” neurochemical system.
The MIT scientists theorize that by controlling ghremlin through a vaccine shot, they could prevent the formation of PTSD.
Soldiers in combat would benefit from this shot since it would lower ghrelin levels for a year. The vaccine would work to counteract rising grehlin levels when soldiers got stressed or threatened.
Keeping grehlin levels normal “should reduce the incidence of PTSD,” said Ki Gossens, assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT.
The researchers found the connection between ghrelin and PTSD by experimenting on rats. They determined a direct correlation between increased ghrelin levels and susceptibility to fear by giving some rats a drug to stimulate ghrelin and comparing them to a control group.
The rats given the ghrelin-stimulating drug showed increased fear, but once the researchers blocked the cell receptors that interact with ghrelin, the fear reduced to normal levels.
Through this experiment and its findings, the MIT researchers argue that emotional disorders formed after trauma are due to elevated ghrelin.
Although the scientists say much research is needed before we can discuss the reality of a vaccine shot, this is a huge advancement for helping those with PTSD and other emotional disorders as it provides a new potential target.