Lieber Institute For Brain Development Release: Historic Partnership Aims To Accelerate The Discovery Of Novel Treatment Targets For Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Published: Oct 11, 2017

BALTIMORE, Md., Oct. 10, 2017/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Lieber Institute for Brain Development (LIBD) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today that they are establishing an historic research partnership to discover new approaches to finding treatments that will improve the lives of individuals suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The partnership between LIBD and VA's National PTSD Brain Bank will identify novel therapeutic targets for PTSD, utilizing postmortem human brains to derive data about gene expression across multiple brain regions and diverse patient groups.

LIBD logo (PRNewsFoto/Lieber Institute for Brain Devel)

Researchers have yet to discover a medication that specifically treats the devastating cognitive, emotional and behavioral changes associated with PTSD.  Around 8% of current and former servicemembers are diagnosed with PTSD, a psychiatric disorder that follows a major traumatic event, and new options are urgently needed. The National Academies have designated the condition a "signature injury" of veterans serving in America's foreign conflicts. A recent estimate of soldiers serving in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom found that 13.8% met the criteria for PTSD. Even more troubling are the high-rates of suicide; more than 20 per day among servicemembers and veterans.

Together with VA colleagues, LIBD scientists will analyze brain regions affected by PTSD and derive genomic targets important in the biological pathways associated with the mechanisms that lead to this complex condition. The aim of this partnership is to identify targets of therapeutic relevance to PTSD.

The Lieber Institute is uniquely positioned to help accelerate efforts to find new therapeutics for PTSD, having acquired the largest postmortem brain repository in the world for the study of PTSD.

"In order to understand the underlying mechanisms of PTSD, we must study the brain itself," said LIBD Director and CEO Daniel R. Weinberger, MD. "We are thrilled to establish this historic partnership with the VA to accelerate our research effort towards new discoveries and novel treatments for brain disorders like PTSD."

The partnership will advance in phases, with the first year focused on analysis of four brain regions from 300+ individuals with either 1) PTSD, 2) major depressive disorder or 3) no diagnosis.

"Although we have learned a great deal from brain imaging research, there is no substitute for looking at the neurons themselves," said PTSD Brain Bank Director Matthew J. Friedman, MD, PhD (who is also Professor of Psychiatry at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth). "Understanding abnormal brain activity in PTSD is critical, and this partnership will help us find new approaches to diagnosis and treatment of individuals with PTSD."

Congress has provided crucial bipartisan and bicameral support for a public-private partnership such as that announced today, which can unlock the mechanisms for predicting the risk of PTSD in different populations, which can lead to preventive and therapeutic interventions. In ensuring sustained higher funding for the VA's National Center for PTSD in fiscal year 2018, Congress has urged the VA to strengthen its research on PTSD and trauma-related disorders, and use every available technology to identify a diagnostic biomarker for PTSD.  Today's announcement marks a major step forward toward achieving that vision.

About the Lieber Institute for Brain Development
The mission of the Lieber Institute for Brain Development and the Maltz Research Laboratories is to translate the understanding of basic genetic and molecular mechanisms of schizophrenia and related developmental brain disorders into clinical advances that change the lives of affected individuals. LIBD is an independent, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization and a Maryland tax-exempt medical research institute affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. For more information, please visit: www.libd.org.

About the National PTSD Brain Bank
VA's National PTSD Brain Bank is a human tissue bank that collects, processes, stores and distributes research specimens for future scientific studies. Veterans and non-Veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD, presently or in the past, are eligible to participate. We are also eager to accept tissue donations from individuals without any psychiatric diagnosis as well as from individuals without PTSD, who have suffered from other psychiatric disorders such as major depression. For more information, please call (800) 762-6609 or visit: www.research.va.gov/programs/tissue_banking/PTSD/default.cfm

Media Contact:
Rebecca Oldham
media@libd.org  
410-955-1000

National Center for PTSD logo

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SOURCE Lieber Institute for Brain Development

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