Gene could increase risk of post-TBI psychiatric symptoms

West Virginia readers possessing a variant of the APOE gene might experience more severe psychiatric symptoms if they suffer a traumatic brain injury, according to a new report. The study, which was conducted by researchers from the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, was published in the Journal of Neurotrauma in February.

Previous research has shown that traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, are linked to an elevated risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders. The new VA study also found that TBI patients were more likely to be diagnosed with psychiatric disorders than those who had never suffered a TBI. In an attempt to explain why this happens, the researchers looked for a biological link between TBIs and psychiatric disorders and singled out a variant of the APOE gene.

This variant, APOE4, is a known risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. Studies have also shown that war veterans who possess it may be at an increased risk of developing PTSD. To find out if the gene increases the risk of psychiatric disorders after suffering a TBI, researchers tested 133 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans for the presence of the gene. Of those studied, 79 participants had suffered a TBI and 54 had not. They found that those who suffered a TBI and had the APOE4 gene experienced more severe psychiatric symptoms than those who had a TBI and a different APOE variant. Meanwhile, those who did not suffer a TBI and had the APOE4 gene experienced no change in the severity of their psychiatric symptoms. The lead author of the study said the results indicate that genetic risk could explain the poor outcomes of some TBI patients.

If a traumatic brain injury was caused by the negligence of another party, it may be advisable to file a personal injury lawsuit seeking damages. An attorney could evaluate a victim's case and help prepare the claim.

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