Gene Variants May Lead To New Treatments
This just in: researchers have discovered five gene variants that appear to heighten the suicide risk in depression sufferers. Right now, this information helps us understand what triggers suicide attempts in those who have suicidal tendencies. But for the future, scientists hope these findings will give insight into creating better and more effective medical treatments for depression.
This work was conducted by Martin A. Kohli, a postdoctoral fellow from the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics at the University of Miami's Miller School of medicine. Kohli, who performed the research while based at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany, explained, "The goal of this kind of research is to find mechanistic targets for new therapies. It's a hint towards the search for new medications. We think we've discovered a new target for such kind of medication." The study is to be published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
In the background material accompanying this report, 10 million to 20 million suicide attempts occur every year, worldwide. One million manage to accomplish the task. Earlier studies have found that a reduction in neurotrophic activity might be involved in major depression and suicidal behavior. Neurotrophins are the proteins responsible for keeping neurons healthy.
Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine's Keith Young, vice chair of that institution's research psychiatry and behavioral science, in Temple, confirms this idea, "There is a lot of data from a lot of different sources that say that something is wrong with the neurotrophin system in people that develop [a tendency for] suicide."
The researchers focused on two genes because brain studies from suicide victims had shown them to be in reduced levels in the deceased. To start with, the scientists collected blood samples from 394 participants with depression. Of these patients, 113 had attempted suicide. These samples were compared with those of 366 healthy controls.
Next, the results were reproduced in two groups. One group consisted of 744 Germans suffering from major depression. Of these, 152 had attempted suicide. The other group was comprised of 921 black patients, none of whom had received a psychiatric diagnosis. Of these patients, 119 had tried to commit suicide.
Five variants were seen over and over again in those patients who had tried to kill themselves. Those patients who had as many as 3 out of 5 of these mutations were found to have five times the risk for a suicide attempt.