Studies released on PTSD, cancer, and words

February 23, 2011 3:06:57 PM PST
Suffering an expected trauma can leave many of us with side effects and health damages that can last a lifetime.

There are new findings about post-traumatic stress disorder, which sadly too many of us in the New York area became aware of after 9/11. Combat soldiers know it well, and the people of New Zealand who have just suffered an earthquake are now at risk. A new study reveals there may be a way to know who more at risk is for PTSD.

The Howard Hughes Medical institute estimates that 7 million Americans suffer from PTSD, which can be brought on after a tragic personal event, surviving a natural disaster, or maybe even experience in war.

Post-traumatic stress disorder can leave people with anxiety and nightmares, and emotional lives shattered. Now researchers have found that trauma victims who are more likely to suffer PTSD had a gene chemical that could be measured in their blood.

The chemical, which is called pacab, affects the brain's response to stress.

Measuring for this chemical might one day identify trauma victims more likely to suffer PTSD.

"Its possible that we could introduce a small molecule that one day will help prevent PTSD," said Dr. Kerry Ressler, the lead author of the study and Associate Professor in the Dept of Psychiatry at Emory University School of Medicine.

Fight against Cancer

Another study released today in the journal Science Translational Medicine by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital focuses on an amazing technological advance in the fight against cancer.

The technology of nuclear magnetic resonance that is used in MRI machines is now in a device the size of a smart phone.

The device called DMR, short for Diagnostic Magnetic Resonance, is the size of a coffee mug and is able to accurately diagnose cancer cells.

Researchers tested the device on tissue samples of 50 patients with possible cancers of the breast, lung and pancreas.

Within an hour, 96 percent were accurately identified.

Currently, most cancers are identified through tissue biopsies, which can take anywhere from three to 6 days, and have an 84% accuracy rate.

The DMR device will continue in testing for now.

Power of Words

One study by researchers at Stanford University highlights what many scholars and politicians have known for a long time. People's thinking towards a particular conclusion can be swayed with the use of the right words or phrases, and shows the influence of words and images.

How a society sees the solution to crime may have a lot to do with the words used to describe it.

Some people suggest more jails, others favor more social reforms and preventive measures.

The study used two test phrases to describe crime. One was a metaphor of beasts, as in "a beast preying on the city." Seventy-four percent of readers favored jailing as solution.

However, when crime was described as a virus, as in "a virus infecting the city," only 56% favored the solution of jailing.

The study was published by the Public Library of Science One.