Depression Blood Test
Written by Faith Anderson on April 18, 2012
Early Depression Diagnosis Can Prevent Serious Consequences
Teenage years are prime time for depression to occur and, according to researchers, rates of major depressive disorders increase from two to four percent in pre-adolescent kids, to 10 to 20 percent by late adolescence. Untreated depression in teens is associated with an increased risk of serious consequences, including social difficulties, substance abuse, suicide and physical illness, which is why it’s so important to get an early and accurate diagnosis.
Study Distinguishes Genetic Markers Associated with Depression
During the study, Redei and her team observed 14 adolescents with untreated major depression and 14 non-depressed teens, all of whom were between 15 and 19 years old. The researchers used the experimental blood test to look for 26 genetic markers that had been identified by earlier studies using rats. By comparing depressed teens to non-depressed teens, researchers were able to distinguish 11 of the markers that may be linked to depression. “These 11 genes are probably the tip of the iceberg because depression is a complex illness,” said Redei in a statement. “But it’s an entree into a much bigger phenomenon that has to be explored. It clearly indicates that we can diagnose from blood and create a blood diagnosis test for depression.” Upon closer inspection, 18 of the 26 markers distinguished between major depression and a subtype of the disorder, major depression with anxiety.
Blood Test May Lead to Better Treatment of Depression in Teens and Adults
Although it was tested on teens specifically, Dr. Michael Thase, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, believes the blood test might also help adults. “This is very interesting early research that could point to the development of not just biomarkers, but also help with the identification of new genes that are involved with the expression of this common illness,” said Thase, who was not involved in the research. “That could potentially lead to new treatments.” Dr. Alexander D. Niculescu, III, associate professor of psychiatry and medical neuroscience at Indiana University School of Medicine, remains skeptical about the study’s results. “We need to be careful not to jump to conclusions based on a small number of study participants.” Redei, however, hopes a blood test could legitimize a depression diagnosis, leading to more effective treatment.