Researchers Develop Possible Blood Test for Depression, Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis


Mental health disorders grip a large chunk of the world population and it is believed that 1 out of 4 people are dealing with some kind of depression. While off late, the recognition and acceptance of mental issues have grown, there is not any effective scientific biological formula or test to discover these disorders. The process of the diagnosis of such issues relies heavily on trial-and-error method. Now, researchers from the medical school of the University of Indiana have claimed to reach a milestone in such diagnosis.

The report published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry tries to understand the biological base of such mood disorders and provides promising blood test that can help in precise medical treatment of it. The team of researchers carrying out this study was led by Alexander B. Niculescu, Professor of Psychiatry at IU School of Medicine.

This latest study was based on the previous research conducted by Niculescu and his colleagues into blood biomarkers that track suicidality as well as pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer’s disease.

The suggested development of the blood test is composed of RNA biomarkers, which can help in diagnosing the severity of depression in patients and can also predict the risk of future depression or bipolar disorders. The test will help develop a customized medication for a patient.

The detailed study was carried over a period of four years with 300 participants from the patient population at the Richard L Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis. Researchers followed a four-step approach of discovery, prioritization, validation and testing.

For the first step, the participants were followed and observed in both high and low mood. The changes in the biomarkers of the participant caused by the change in the mood were observed by the researchers. Next, the team utilized large databases developed from all previous studies in the subject 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.

With this approach, researchers were able to demonstrate a method to match patients with medication and even suggest new medication for the treatment of depression.

Talking about the findings of his team’s research, Niculescu said, “These blood tests can open the door to precise, personalized matching with medications, and objective monitoring of response to treatment.”

Additionally, the team’s finding suggested that mood disorders are underlined by circadian clock genes — the genes that regulate seasonal, day-night and sleep-wake cycles.

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