Researchers at Hebrew University are developing a simple blood test to screen for anxiety. This could open the door to a new era in psychiatric diagnostics, and should challenge the perception that such disorders are “all in your head” (they seem to be in the blood, as well). IsraCast’s Iddo Genuth has more:
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Over the years studies have shown that when the body feels stress (for example when a child jumps in front of your car) the level of ACh in the synapses rises. In order for the body to return to normal levels of ACh a special enzyme called Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) which breaks down the ACh, springs into action. Normally the levels of ACh and AchE decrease after the cause of the stress disappears, but people suffering from anxiety disorders continue to maintain high levels of ACh and AChE. As is the case with many other complex interactions inside the body, there are more than just two factors responsible for each behavioral pattern. Previous studies on mice suggested that two other enzymes called butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) and paraoxonase (PON) are also involved in the anxiety controlling mechanism.
Since it is currently too complex to measure ACh directly, Professor Soreq and her team aimed at testing if people with abnormal levels of AChE, BChE and PON would also show anxiety symptoms and comparing this data to the psychological tests conducted separately. The results surprised even Soreq herself as she admitted in an interview to IsraCast. Her team found more than a 90% correlation between people who were diagnosed with higher than usual anxiety by a psychologist and people with abnormal AChE, BChE and PON levels.
Of course, if a patient is anxious about needles or blood, this test is revealing, even before it is conducted…