About a dozen years ago, scientists discovered that a hormone called ghrelin enhances appetite. Dubbed the “hunger hormone,” ghrelin was quickly targeted by drug companies seeking treatments for obesity — none of which have yet panned out. MIT neuroscientists have now discovered that ghrelin’s role goes far beyond controlling hunger. The researchers found that ghrelin released during chronic stress makes the brain more vulnerable to traumatic events, suggesting that it may predispose people to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“Perhaps we could give people who are going to be deployed into an active combat zone a ghrelin vaccine before they go, so they will have a lower incidence of PTSD. That’s exciting because right now there’s nothing given to people to prevent PTSD,” says Goosens, who is also a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research. Lead author of the paper is Retsina Meyer, a recent MIT PhD recipient, 2009 Hugh Hampton Young Fellow, and former MSRP Program Assistant. Other authors are McGovern postdoc Anthony Burgos-Robles, graduate student Elizabeth Liu, and McGovern research scientist Susana Correia.
Read the rest of the article on MIT News.