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Researchers reveal possible molecular blood signature for suicide in major depression

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A University of California, Irvine-led team of researchers, along with members of the Pritzker Research Consortium, has developed an approach to identify blood biomarkers that could predict the suicide risk of major depressive disorder (MDD) patients.

The study, titled “Identification of potential blood biomarkers associated with suicide in major depressive disorder,” was published in Translational Psychiatry.

Results from the study demonstrate that non-preserved blood can be used to discover suicide specific biomarkers using a novel gene expression approach and a gene expression quantification approach less sensitive to the effects of RNA degradation (NanoString). In addition to identifying individuals at highest risk for suicide, the results can help researchers understand molecular changes in suicide victims.

“These blood biomarkers are an important step toward developing blood tests to identify patients with imminent risk of ending their lives,” said corresponding author Adolfo Sequeira, Ph.D., associate researcher in the Department of Psychiatry & Human Behavior at the UCI School of Medicine. “To our knowledge, this is the first study to analyze blood and brain samples in a well-defined population of MDDs demonstrating significant differences in gene expression associated with completed suicide.”

After analyzing data from blood and brain samples from suicide victims, researchers found gene expression changes in stress response, including polyamine metabolism, circadian rhythm, immune dysregulation and telomere maintenance.

Researchers used data obtained in collaboration with the Pritzker Neuropsychiatric Disorders Research Consortium from non- (RNA) preserved blood samples in combination with gene expression data from blood and brain samples from the same subjects. Subjects with no psychiatric diagnosis (all non-suicides) and major depression subjects who died of suicide or from natural causes were included in the study.

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