I've long been interested in the hormone ghrelin - in part because I wrote about an important study linking it with obesity back in 2004, and in part because ghrelin is such a cool-sounding word. I took notice, then, of new work that shows another role for the so-called "hunger hormone." A recent MIT story describes the specifics of the animal research and nicely summarizes the results:
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).
Drugs that reduce ghrelin levels, originally developed to try to combat obesity, could help protect people who are at high risk for PTSD, such as soldiers serving in war, says Ki Goosens, an assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT, and senior author of a paper describing the findings in the online edition of Molecular Psychiatry.
"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.