In a recent study from Fujita Health University, researchers found that high levels of anthranilic acid in the blood may serve as a marker to find people who are experiencing depression-like symptoms and are at risk of developing a major depressive disorder.
The finding could allow early detection of patients at risk of developing depression.
The study is published in Scientific Reports. One author is Professor Kuniaki Saito.
Chronic pain, or inflammation, is believed to be one of the major factors in the onset of major depressive disorder.
Therefore, to better understand what happens physiologically during the depression, scientists have long studied several metabolic processes or “pathways” related to inflammation.
In the study, the team analyzed 61 patients who had clinical test scores that indicated a high risk of developing a major depressive disorder.
The scientists measured the serum levels of various kynurenine pathway metabolites with a technique called high-performance liquid chromatography, which allows precise measurement of concentrations.
They found that compared to the healthy people, the patients at risk of depression had increased serum levels of anthranilic acid.
Furthermore, women at risk of depression had reduced serum levels of tryptophan.
These findings are aligned with the previous findings of increased kynurenine pathway activity in patients at risk of developing a major depressive disorder.
The scientists did further analyses on data from 33 patients at risk of depression whose scores on a clinical depression scale at different time points.
The analyses showed that increases in serum anthranilic acid levels over time correlated with the worsening of the clinical test scores.
This finding confirms that there is indeed a strong, direct correlation between anthranilic acid levels in the blood and the severity of depression on the clinical depression scale.
Because chronic pain can cause depression and related symptoms, the scientists also checked tryptophan metabolites in patients with chronic pain disorders affecting the mouth, jaw, and face.
By testing 48 patients with chronic pain disorders and 42 healthy people, the research team found that the patients with chronic pain had elevated serum levels of anthranilic acid and lower serum levels of tryptophan, just like those who were at risk of major depressive disorder.
The team says clinicians can monitor serum levels of anthranilic acid to find out if patients are at risk of developing a major depressive disorder.
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