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Genetics Study Pinpoints Biomarker for Depression

Posted by floriza in Genetic Counseling

In a study conducted by Yale University and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute genetics center and published in the October 2011 issue of Biological Psychiatry, researchers found a genetic risk factor for clinical depression that could help to determine which people are most at risk of developing the psychiatric disease.

The study utilized the Texas Biomedical Research Institute’s AT&T Genomics Computer Center (GCC) and involved creating an entirely new way to analyze genetic risk factors. There are potentially thousands such risk factors, and with the help of the new computer technology, the researchers evaluated more than 11,000 of them. The gene that was found to correlate with depression risk is called RNF123.

1,122 patients participated in the research group, which was called the Genetics of Brain Structure and Function Study. The participants were from 40 Mexican American families in greater San Antonio, Texas.

The Potential Benefits of the Genetics Study

Clinical depression is one of the most common mental illnesses with approximately 17 percent of Americans suffering from it during their lifetimes. While the disease seems to run in families, scientific proof that it is hereditary has not been obtained before now.

Researchers hope that this finding will, at some point, allow physicians to determine who is at risk of developing major depressive disorder so that preventative therapy can be attempted to help the individual cope before the disease becomes debilitating.

The method used by the genetics center researchers may also be used in other studies to find genetic risk factors.

What is Major Depression?

Major depressive disorder or clinical depression is more than just a feeling of sadness. It involves the body, as well as the mind. A chronic psychiatric illness, it can be debilitating in severe cases and even lead to suicide.

Besides the expected sadness and irritability that people with mild cases of depression experience, people with major depression lose interest in life’s activities and sometimes find it hard to work. Some people experience insomnia, while others find it difficult to stay awake. Similarly, some respond by overeating, while others lose their appetite. Concentration typically becomes difficult, and feelings of worthlessness may be experienced. In many cases, physical pain is a symptom of depression, as well as periods of unexplained weeping.

Since the symptoms vary from individual to individual, the disease can sometimes be difficult to diagnose and must be done through therapeutic intervention, as is the case with most psychiatric illnesses.

Genetic Counseling Centers in New Jersey and other parts of the world are not yet equipped to determine a genetic marker for depression, but they usually offer other services to determine hereditary risk factors for several diseases.


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