Researchers at MIT have discovered that controlling Ghrelin — a hormone usually produced in the large and small intestine — via “vaccine” may help prevent PTSD.
Ghrelin levels fluctuate as you eat and are highest right before meals, then drop afterwards. However, its production is not limited to the intestines as it can be produced all over the body from the gonads to the lungs, kidneys and brain. Since its production can be so widespread, scientists assume that Ghrelin plays multiple biological functions.
Researchers from the MIT team have determined that high levels of Ghrelin are produced during high stress events. The hormone then remains in the body at elevated levels for an extended time, months after the event has ended. Scientists have concluded that by controlling the release of Ghrelin, doctors can prevent the development of PTSD after stressful events.
As reported by Discovery News, “You would get a shot, and for a year it would lower your ghrelin levels,” said KI Gossens, a MIT assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences.
Like almost all biological studies attempting to find cures for humans, the scientists studied how the Ghrelin hormone affects rats. Using drugs to increase Ghrelin levels in the rats’ bloodstreams, researchers discovered that the rats became more fearful and stressed. Then by blocking the receptors for Ghrelin they were able to return fear to normal levels in stressed rats.
Since its discovery, ghrelin has been researched thoroughly as an anti-obesity drug. Many of these new drugs have passed safety trials, making many of the researchers hopeful that it could be quickly approved and tested as an PTSD drug.
However, some are worried about the loss of the positive effects of Ghrelin.
“Ghrelin is a hormone and also a neuromodulator that stimulates appetite and also enhances aspects of cognitive function. A systemic vaccination might not even work and could … make people anorectic and impair other aspects of physiology by blocking good actions of gherkin,” said Bruce McEwen, the director of the neuroendocrinology laboratory at Rockefeller University in New York.
If it causes people to become anorectic, it could create huge side effects on the persons appetite and cause an unhealthy amount of weight loss. Despite these worries, scientists are eager to research these findings further to help those who suffer.