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PTSD Symptoms Can Be Relieved With Common Hypertension Treatment

First Posted: Jun 11, 2014 01:35 PM EDT
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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects about 7.7 million adults in the United States. New research conducted by Emory University found that a common hypertension treatment might be able to help PTSD patients in need.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that mainly affects military veterans. It develops after exposure to a terrifying event or situation where there exists a potential or actual occurrence of serious physical harm. Those who suffer from PTSD experience frightening thoughts and memories, sleep problems, emotional issues, and difficulties with interpersonal relationships.

The potential new treatment, the renin-angiotensin system, is a group of related hormones that act together to regulate one's blood pressure. Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) were the first drugs targeting the renin-angiotensin system back in the 1990s. This has long been an interest to experts in psychiatry.

Researchers at Emory University found that PTSD patients who were treated with ACE or ARB inhibitors for blood pressure issues exhibited fewer symptoms of the anxiety disorder. As a result, the researchers took their observations and conducted an experiment.

"Our current preclinical results show that the ARB losartan, given acutely or chronically to mice, enhances the extinction of fear memory, a process that is disrupted in individuals with PTSD," said the study's first author, Dr. Paul Marvar, in this press release. "Overall these data provide further support that this class of medications may have beneficial effects on fear memory in PTSD patients."

The article, "Angiotensin Type 1 Receptor Inhibition Enhances the Extinction of Fear Memory," was published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. The researchers investigated the acute and long-term effects of Angiotensin Type 1 (AT1) receptor inhibition on fear memory and baseline anxiety for two weeks on mice. They found that the AT1 receptor dispelled fear memory in the mice after they paired auditory cues with foot shocks.

The researchers are excited about the results, but acknowledge that further studies must be conducted before this method is tested in clinical trials for humans.

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