ICB Researchers Design Innovative PTSD Diagnosis Technique

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

UCSB researchers in the College of Engineering discovered that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be detected in the bloodstream, and the team is in the initial phases of developing a portable field device for soldiers to quantitatively diagnose the disorder. The Army-funded ICB Medical research focuses on the systems and computational engineering aspect of diagnosing PTSD.

The researchers are still in the initial phases of the project and do not yet know the PTSD “signature,” making it difficult to establish the most useful diagnostic test. Some ideas include a device similar to that of a diabetes blood glucose test, a pregnancy test or even a simple blood test. One thing that is known is the statistical analysis behind the test.“We make mathematical models of what are called signaling networks. What signaling networks describe are how when genes make proteins, how those proteins are changed or how they interact and react with other proteins to give rise to a signal that then tells a cell if it is in a stressed state,” Doyle said. “So if all I wanted to do was take hundreds of thousands of measurements and look for patterns, I wouldn’t need biology, I would just need statistics. We simulate these networks, we analyze the networks, we bring powerful statistical tools to probing the data and that’s how these things get combined.”

Department Chair of Chemical Engineering Frank Doyle said that the researchers used statistical tools and inference along with the computer models for simulation.

“We make mathematical models of what are called signaling networks. What signaling networks describe are how when genes make proteins, how those proteins are changed or how they interact and react with other proteins to give rise to a signal that then tells a cell if it is in a stressed state,” Doyle said. “So if all I wanted to do was take hundreds of thousands of measurements and look for patterns, I wouldn’t need biology, I would just need statistics. We simulate these networks, we analyze the networks, we bring powerful statistical tools to probing the data and that’s how these things get combined.”

William Leu, a sophomore in UCSB’s Reserve Officer Training Corps, said that the research may benefit soldiers who return from combat and do not know they have PTSD.

UCSB's Daily Nexus full article.