Using blood to identify and treat PTSD

Multi-year project to find indicators in blood

Courtesy: James Rivera, former Sergeant in the Marine Corps
Courtesy: James Rivera, former Sergeant in the Marine Corps

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Groundbreaking new research has begun with a goal of figuring out how to better identify and treat PTSD in veterans and other trauma survivors. 

Wounded Warrior Project and Cohen Veterans Bioscience have started a multi-year project trying to find indicators in blood that will help find and treat the disease. 

Local veteran James Rivera, former Sgt in the Marine Corps, sees promise in the testing. "I think it will streamline the process a lot more. And help out overall. It will save a lot of time and frustration for sure for veterans," he said.

Rivera was deployed three times, including one combat deployment to Iraq in 2004. When he came back from that deployment, he said his life was taken over by PTSD.

"It changes your perspective on things. It gives you a different outlook, a negative outlook," he said. "Especially physical. I didn’t believe in PTSD or depression until I felt it. It’s a real, real affliction."

The research project is trying to study biomarkers in blood found in people dealing with PTSD. A specific biomarker in veterans can confirm PTSD and the potential to respond to treatment. Alex Balbir, the Director of Wounded Warrior Project’s Warrior Care Network said, "there’s not a one-size-fits-all treatment for all veterans dealing with a variety of mental health issues as well as traumatic brain injury. This (testing) allows us the opportunity to specialize in customize particular treatments for veterans."

Balbir said this isn’t just about helping this generation of veterans, but being ahead of the problem for future generations as well.
"What we are looking for is to develop that playbook. That play book for what strategies are most effective for treatment. But also to really understand how we can prepare our current fighting force for the future."

The hope is that when this project is complete, the findings will also translate and help other non-veterans who are dealing with PTSD as well. It will also provide help and hope for veterans like Sgt Rivera deal with an injury nobody can see.