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A blood test could be used to diagnose depression, according to doctors who say specific chemicals appear in the blood of those with the mental health condition.
A potential blood test could be important for diagnosing depression, since the only way to currently diagnose it is through consultations with doctors based on mood and screen tests using questionnaires.
If a blood test is developed, a biological sign could be used to qualify depression, meaning that a patient could be diagnosed instead of being classified as simply “sad” all the time.
Researchers from a team at Northwestern University in Chicago sampled a small group of teenagers and noticed that those who were unhealthy showed signs of certain chemicals that weren’t present in healthier teens. The tests were based on an original study of animals, which found 26 markers in blood linked to stress and genetic features involved in brain damage.
The test involved 14 healthy teenagers and 14 with early onset major depression.
Eva Redei, a co-author of the study, said that the chemicals found in the blood could be taken as a “neurodegenerative fingerprint” that highlights potential problems. Additionally, because depression often occurs before Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, the presence of blood chemicals could be an early warning sign.
"The pilot data presented here suggest that our approach leads to a clinically valid diagnostic panel of blood transcripts that can differentiate early-onset major depressive disorder from controls,” Redei said. "The next step is to test our findings in a large sample of youths with major depressive disorder, comparing them with youths without any psychiatric disorder and youths diagnosed with other psychiatric disorders."
Redei added that in the future, measuring the blood chemicals in a person with depression could be a useful way of checking whether or not treatment is working.
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