New drug could prevent PTSD in trauma victims

Researchers have learned that PTSD may be in our genes


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Community members marked the one year anniversary of the Kalamazoo shooting rampage Monday.

24 Hour News 8 spoke to the people who were affected — the families of the victims, the first responders and the survivors. Many of them may be dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder from that horrific night.

Tuesday, a panel of medical experts who study brains spoke at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine.

PTSD can happen as the result of any trauma; a threat to your life, witnessing a threat to another person’s life, repeat exposure to tragedy or an unexpected death of a loved one.

All things that happened the night of the Kalamazoo shooting spree.

Dr. Theodore Wright a Clinical Psychologist at the Battle Creek VA says all of the vigils held for the victims of the Kalamazoo shooting are a good way to battle PTSD. He says the best way to deal with PTSD is to talk about it.

“I saw the plans for a memorial and memorials are a beautiful way to do this to have a conversation and remember and to visit that and work through it,” said Wright.

Many times, people want to avoid it.

“Let’s say I’m an EMT responder and I happen to be treating one of the children or come across one of the children that were shot. Then I start to notice that I start to back away from kids and I don’t have as much contact with my kids.”

The doctor says you need to engage with what you are trying to avoid in order to give your brain a chance to adjust and realize the trauma is over.

Researchers have learned that PTSD may be in our genes. Specifically the COMT (Catechol-O-methyltransferase) gene. Doctors discovered people who had the Met/Met variant of the gene are much less likely to develop PTSD than those who have the Val/Val variant of the gene.

“The question is can you make the people with the Val/Val variant more like the Met/Met? The answer is yes,” said Dr. Thomas Hyde, the Chief Medical Officer Lieber Institute for Brain Development.

Now the Lieber Institute is developing a drug that a person can take once a day to dramatically decrease the likelihood that the person will have PTSD.

“This is transformational and this is what personalize medicine is all about,” said Hyde.

The drug is expected to be available in the next four years.

The 21st Century Cures Bill has provided billions of dollars for research and helped to streamline the process of getting drugs to market. Representative Fred Upton was behind the bill.