London: Researchers have developed an experimental drug that can prevent stress-related memory problems, paving the way for treatment of those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Researchers led by the Columbia University in the US used Rycal S107 on mice and were able to stop certain symptoms of stress-related illnesses, the Daily Mail reported.
PTSD is a disabling anxiety disorder triggered by a traumatic experience, ranging from a one-time event, such as being assaulted, to chronic stresses, such as those experienced during warfare.
Patients are commonly treated with supportive therapies, including antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and psychotherapy but there is no specific treatment for PTSD and related disorders.
Several studies have shown that chronic stress could affect the structure and function of neurons in the hippocampus, part of the brain which plays a central role in learning and memory.
Study leader Doctor Andrew Marks, professor of physiology and cellular biophysics at Columbia University Medical Centre (CUMC) believes stress may cause PTSD by destabilising type 2 ryanodine receptors (RyR2) channels in the hippocampus, which regulate calcium levels in neurons vital to cell survival and function.
"When we examined the hippocampal neurons of the stressed mice, we found that their RyR2 channels had become destabilised and leaky compared with channels from normal non-stressed mice which were not leaky," Marks said.
"We found these same leaky channels in samples from patients with these disorders but not in those from healthy humans," Marks was quoted as saying by the paper.
"Using classic behavioural and cognitive function tests, including a water-maze and object-recognition tests, we found that the stressed mice developed profound cognitive abnormalities affecting both learning and memory," Marks said.
The researchers confirmed that hippocampal RyR2 channels were involved in the cognitive decline of the mice.
When the mice were given Rycal S107 that prevents the calcium leak by stabilising RyR2 channels, cognitive function was not affected by exposure to chronic stress.
Marks expects’ that clinical trials with S107, or a similar Rycal, for the treatment of PTSD could begin within several years.
The study was published in the journal Cell.