Scientists develop a blood test for depression, bipolar disorder

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Worldwide, 1 in 4 people will suffer from a depressive episode in their lifetime.

In a new study from Indiana University, researchers found the biological basis of mood disorders and offer a promising blood test that can help with treatment.

The work builds on previous research into blood biomarkers that track suicidality as well as pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer’s disease.

The team’s work describes the development of a blood test, composed of RNA biomarkers, that can distinguish how severe a patient’s depression is, the risk of them developing severe depression in the future, and the risk of future bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness).

The test also informs tailored medication choices for patients.

This comprehensive study took place over four years, with over 300 participants recruited primarily from Indianapolis.

First, the participants were followed over time, with researchers observing them in both high and low mood states—each time recording what changed in terms of the biological markers (biomarkers) in their blood between the two states.

Next, the team utilized large databases developed from all previous studies in the field, to cross-validate and prioritize their findings.

From here, researchers validated the top 26 candidate biomarkers in independent cohorts of clinically severe people with depression or mania.

Last, the biomarkers were tested in additional independent cohorts to determine how strong they were at predicting who is ill, and who will become ill in the future.

From this approach, researchers were then able to demonstrate how to match patients with medications—even finding a new potential medication to treat depression.

The new blood test can help distinguish between depression and bipolar disorder and match people to the right treatments.

The team found that mood disorders are underlined by circadian clock genes—the genes that regulate seasonal, day-night and sleep-wake cycles.

That explains why some patients get worse with seasonal changes and the sleep alterations that occur in mood disorders.

If you care about depression, please read studies about new antidepressants can lift depression and suicidal thoughts fast and findings of a leading cause of depression in older people.

For more information about mental health, please see recent studies about this depression drug could shut down the brain if used too much and results showing that scientists can see depression in your eyes.

The study is published in Molecular Psychiatry. One author of the study is Alexander B. Niculescu, MD, Ph.D.

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