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Hadassah Doctors Link Gene Mutation With PTSD

by Lisa Schiffman

JERUSALEM - A genetic mutation of the Dopamine Transporter (DAT) has been positively linked to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by doctors in the Psychiatry Department at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem. The DAT gene, which itself was identified in 1962, is responsible for transporting Dopamine within the nervous system. Hadassah researchers, Dr. Ronen Segman, a senior physician in the Psychiatry Department at Hadassah, and Prof. Arieh Shaley, head of the department, led the research, which included more than 200 trauma victims from the Jerusalem region.

People who suffer from PTSD are plagued by intrusive memories of a traumatic event and constant hyper-arousal. These symptoms can persist for many years, and are often associated with significant disability and distress. Traditionally, common wisdom dictated that the causes of PSTD were strictly environmental. However, several years ago a study comparing identical and fraternal twins, who saw similar combat action in the Vietnam War, showed that PTSD is expressed with greater frequency in both twins when they are identical - and therefore share identical genes - than when they are fraternal.

Researchers at Hadassah Medical Organization further confirmed the role of genes in the disorder by finding that a mutation on the DAT gene is more prevalent in people who suffer from PTSD. As a result of this study, it is believed that the DAT gene may be responsible for 4-10 percent of all PTSD cases.

According to Prof. Shaley, "This is a first step in defining the biological mechanisms involved in creating PTSD. These findings will help in the future to find an efficient treatment for PTSD." Details of the research were published in the most recent edition of Molecular Psychiatry.

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