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Potential drug target for PTSD prevention
Date:6/30/2014

Scientists at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University have identified a drug that appears to make memories of fearsome events less durable in mice.

The finding may accelerate the development of treatments for preventing PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). The drug, called osanetant, targets a distinct group of brain cells in a region of the brain that controls the formation and consolidation of fear memories.

The results were published in the journal Neuron.

"Potentially, drugs that act on this group of cells could be used to block fear memory consolidation shortly after exposure to a trauma, which would aid in preventing PTSD," says Kerry Ressler, MD, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine and Yerkes National Primate Research Center. "PTSD is unique among psychiatric disorders in that we know when it starts at the time of the trauma. Finding ways to prevent its development in the first place in the emergency department or the battlefield - is an important and exciting avenue of research in this area."

The first author of the paper is postdoctoral fellow Ral Andero Gal, PhD.

Ressler and Andero were sifting through a list of many genes that are activated in the brains of mice after they learn to become afraid of a sound, because the sound is paired with a mild electric shock. The researchers were probing for changes in the central amygdala, a region of the brain known to regulate fear learning.

Out of thousands of genes they examined, their "top gene" was Tachykinin 2 or Tac2. The Tac2 gene was turned on more strongly during fear learning in mice that were previously exposed to a model of traumatic stress..

"The Tac2 gene is robustly activated after fear learning and belongs to a pathway that can be specifically blocked with a drug," Ressler says. "It was interesting that Tac2 is highly expressed in one particu
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Contact: Quinn Eastman
qeastma@emory.edu
404-727-7829
Emory Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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