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The gene for major depression


People struggle to describe their psychiatric disorders with words that often fall short of the experience. For doctors, trying to describe these ailments at a molecular level, they too often find it difficult to define a disease with scientific lexicon.

Over the past twenty years, research has developed strategies for describing the biological underpinnings of depression. These descriptions might include volumetric brain measurements using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and the patterns of gene expression in white blood cells.

Scientists have also attempted to characterize the genes that cause depression. They associate them to a scale of mood states. Additionally they may look at alterations in brain structure and function as measure by MRI. They may also look at the gene expression patters in post-mortem brain tissue from people who suffered from depression and other psychiatric disorders.

Dr. David Glahn of Yale University and Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living sought to find the gene or genes that could explain the whole picture of depression by combining all of the different types of information.

Their goals were to describe a new method for ranking measures of brain structure and function on their genetic important for depression, and then to identify a candidate gene for major depression. “We were trying to come up with a way that could generally be used to link biological measurements to (psychiatric) disease risk,” said Dr. John Blangero, director of the AT&T Genomics Computing Center at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute. “And in our first application of this, in relation to major depressive disorder, we’ve actually come up with something quite exciting.”

Right now their best gene candidate is something called RNF 123. The study continues, but according to Glahn, “We’ve got a really good candidate. Even that has been tough to do in depression.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Biological Psychiatry

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