October 18, 2019: Huntsville, AL: Little Orange Fish, a 501(c)(3) non-profit committed to furthering community mental health, announced the launch of its Inner Defense Research Initiative, which is a collaborative effort aimed at identifying markers in the immune system that indicate and possibly predict sensitivity to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). This initiative, a collaboration including iXpressGenes Inc., Paragon Research Corporation, the University of Alabama at Huntsville and individual contributors is based on a breakthrough study reporting a strong correlation between the immune system and stress affliction. The analysis, which is based on a simple blood draw, might guide clinical approaches to PTSD diagnosis and treatment, possibly bringing a revolutionary solution to a crippling problem for many people.
The Inner Defense Research Initiative focuses on developing the diagnostic screen to inform solutions for prevention and treatment, to provide education and outreach and to influence policy change.
For Dr. Joe Ng, founder and president of iXpressGenes, this mission is personal. Having survived the mass shooting at UAH in 2011, this research was born from the struggles and firsthand observations of the carnage-caused traumatic stress. “In honor of those who did not survive and those who did, but suffer terribly,” Dr. Ng said, “I want to find a path to resiliency. The immune system might be that path.”
Dr. Ng’s company, iXpressGenes, (iXG) is a synthetic biology company located at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, specializing in solutions based on molecular protein structures. iXG has conducted preliminary studies of T-cell receptor transcriptome sequences that offer an unprecedented analysis of linking an immune repertoire to sensitivity or resilience to PTSD, demonstrating that certain immune conditions are
more common in people with PTSD. This knowledge opens up a wealth of preventative measures one can take as well as directed treatment options for long-term health.
“Approaching PTSD from the perspective of the immune system changes everything,” said Peggy Sammon, Director, iXG. “The neural-immune axis brings a new set of tools to those who are seeking solutions for PTSD and other debilitating stress conditions.”
While the preliminary findings are encouraging and provide strong support for the proposed study; the next step is to expand the size of their participant pool and validate the findings in a bigger study. The goal is to
collect immune repertoire data for a thousand or more soldiers and first responders who have been exposed to trauma to help establish a secure and intelligent database for analyses and data mining in the search for
predictive markers. Once the markers have been identified and verified, intervention strategies can be recommended. The team is seeking funding to perform the larger study.
“There is such promise in the science we’ve seen,” John Schmitt, Iraq war veteran and collaborating microbiologist added, “we have built a powerful team of technical experts and innovators in the field, but we will need the support from the wider community to accelerate this work and really make a difference in lives.”