Depression

Updated 02 August 2016

Depression may be 'in the genes'

Finding associated genes should help make it clear that depression is a brain disease, which will decrease the stigma still associated with these kinds of illnesses.

0

Researchers say they've identified 15 regions of human DNA associated with depression.

New treatments

These regions may contain genes that increase the risk of depression, said the researchers, although the study does not prove these genes cause depression.

"Identifying genes that affect risk for a disease is a first step towards understanding the disease biology itself, which gives us targets to aim for in developing new treatments," said corresponding study author Dr Roy Perlis. He's with the Centre for Human Genetic Research at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Read: Neanderthal DNA may affect modern human health

"More generally, finding genes associated with depression should help make clear that this is a brain disease, which we hope will decrease the stigma still associated with these kinds of illnesses," he said in a hospital news release.

The researchers analysed data from more than 300,000 people of European ancestry that was collected by the consumer genetic profiling company 23andMe. More than 75,000 of the people in the study had been diagnosed with or treated for depression.

Traditional approaches unsuccessful

The analysis pinpointed 15 regions of DNA, including 17 specific sites, significantly associated with depression risk. Several of these sites are located in or near genes known to be involved in brain development.

Read: Depression makes cells age faster

"The neurotransmitter-based models we are currently using to treat depression are more than 40 years old, and we really need new treatment targets. We hope that finding these genes will point us toward novel treatment strategies," said Perlis, who is also an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

"Another key takeaway from our study is that the traditional way of doing genetic studies is not the only way that works. Using existing large data sets or biobanks may be far more efficient and may be helpful for other psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety disorders, where traditional approaches also have not been successful," Perlis said.

The study was published online in the journal Nature Genetics.

Read more:

Symptoms of depression

Causes of depression

Treating depression

Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

 

Ask the Expert

Depression expert

Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules