BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Researchers at Virginia Tech discovered a protein that may regulate post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in the female brain.

The protein, Ubiquitin, helps regulate events in the memory, which can cause PTSD symptoms.

“The protein is primarily thought of as a protein that marks other proteins to be destroyed,” said Tim Jarome, an associate professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences School of Animal Sciences. “For it to be doing this function in the context of PTSD in females is very surprising.”

Researchers manipulated a form of this protein and discovered that it was “selective in forming fear memories,” specifically in the female brain.

“Oftentimes, molecules are found in the brain that are involved in forming these fear-based memories in both sexes, and this is the first time that we found one that’s selectively involved in one sex,” Jarome said. “In particular, this was found in the sex that seems to be more likely to have PTSD. It’s rare to find these mechanisms that are specific to one sex in terms of regulating the underlying factors that cause PTSD.”

“Right now, treatment options are not very effective and the success rate isn’t very good,” Jarome said. “PTSD is not created equal among patients, and we know females are more likely to have it. The therapeutic approaches that we take to treat it might have to differ between males and females. This may be a mechanism in which we could specifically target treatment in females as a way to treat PTSD.”

Currently, there are many therapeutic treatments offered to individuals suffering from PTSD, and researchers believe this discovery could lead to the advancement of more successful treatments.

Kayla Farrell, a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Animal Sciences, led the project, which was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Health. The findings were published in Molecular Psychiatry in the Nature Portfolio of Journals.

The entire report can be accessed here.