MRI scans of the human brain


This May Be First Step In Curing PTSD With A Pill

A start-up, funded in part by the U.S. Army, could be on track to revolutionizing what we know about PTSD.

A new company, with funding from the U.S. Army, may have found the secret to treating PTSD with a pill or some other direct form of medicine. 

Right now, treatments for PTSD range from virtual reality to electronic brain stimulation to hallucinogens and ecstasy. But while these can lessen symptoms, they don’t offer a direct cure. 

Dr. Jennifer Perusini, founder of Neurovation Labs, says PTSD has a unique biomarker called GluA1. It's a protein that is part of a glutamate receptor system, which helps memory formation. But trauma can also spur the creation of GluA1. 

In 2014, during experiments for her doctoral thesis, she found that rats subjected to traumatic experiences had more GluA1. They also experienced anxiety and symptoms associated with PTSD, even when they weren’t experiencing threatening noises and lights. 

Blocking the protein removed the anxiety, but the rats still displayed a healthy reaction to new frightening stimuli. That’s key, because it’s important to retain the ability to be scared by actual threats.

Perusini is currently in pre-clinical trial mode for a medicine that can block GluA1, and the clinical trial process could take years. But she already has financial support from the Air Force and from the Army through the Army’s xTech program, which awarded her $145,000 to develop her model that targets the protein. 

Neurovation Labs was one of five companies xTech featured this week as part of a showcase of finalists that had passed through the program. 

Zeke Topolosky, chief of the strategic partnerships office at the DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory, told Defense One that the competition to get into the xTech program is strong. 

“We get about 300 to 400 proposals. We select about 50 to do a live pitch… That’s when we do really technical vetting: ‘OK, this solution is really viable. It works. It solves a problem the Army needs solving.’ Those are the companies that make it out of the pitch round,” he said. 

In addition to funding, the program also helps companies navigate the Army’s acquisition process to speed new technology development and deployment.