Chromatography

Is Depression Genetic?

May 10 2018 Read 1026 Times

For some people, severe cases of the blues are usually triggered by environmental factors like difficult breakups, ongoing stress or the death of a loved one. For others, depression is impossible to shake. There's plenty of proof suggesting that mental illness is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, and now a new study has revealed that chronic depression is linked to a huge 44 genomic variants.

Scientists discover 44 genomic links

The findings come from a new meta-analysis evaluating more than 135,000 people suffering from major depression. After factoring in over 344,000 controls, researchers identified 44 genomic variants, also known as loci, that are statistically linked to depression.

While 14 had been identified in previous studies, 30 were classed as new discoveries. Furthermore, the study identified an additional 153 significant genes and confirmed that cases of major depression share six loci that are also associated with schizophrenia.

A breakthrough for treatment and prevention

The results were published in the journal Nature Genetics and drew on research gathered from over 200 scientists working within the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium. Patrick F. Sullivan, co-leader of the project hails the study as game changing.

"Figuring out the genetic basis of major depression has been really hard. A huge number of researchers across the world collaborated to make this paper, and we now have a deeper look than ever before into the basis of this awful and impairing human malady," he explains. "With more work, we should be able to develop tools important for treatment and even prevention of major depression."

Naomi Wray, another of the study's co-leaders asserts that while all humans carry genetic variants for depression, those with a higher burden are more susceptible to suffering from chronic mental illness. "We know that many life experiences also contribute to risk of depression, but identifying the genetic factors opens new doors for research into the biological drivers," she says.

Homing in on biological clues

As well as reaffirming the value of large-scale mental illness research collaborations, the study also confirms that psychiatric conditions have genetic roots. When it comes to tackling mental illness such studies could unveil invaluable biological clues that could be used to develop new, more effective treatments. Chronic depression is one of the most serious public health problems on the planet and despite decades of research treatment options are limited.

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