Doctors identify 44 genetic causes of depression

44 gene locations identified in connection with severe depression
According to health experts, the relationship between genetic factors and depression is now undisputed. An international team of researchers has now identified 44 gene locations that are associated with severe depression. According to experts, we all have the facilities for mental illness within us.

More and more people suffer from mental illnesses
According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people with depression has increased significantly worldwide. In Germany and the EU too, more and more people suffer from mental illness. According to the German Depression Aid, over five million people in Germany suffer from unipolar depression in need of treatment every year. An international team of researchers has now successfully identified 44 gene locations that are associated with severe depression.

Relationship between genetic factors and depression
According to health experts, depression in most cases has more than one cause.

The mental disorder can be favored by stress, stressful life events or diseases such as thyroid diseases or Parkinson's.

In addition, it has long been known that genes play an important role in the development of mental illness.

"The connection between genetic factors and depression is now undisputed," explains Prof. Dr. Manuel Mattheisen in a communication from the University Hospital Würzburg.

The head of the working group for psychiatric genetics and epigenetics at the clinic and polyclinic for psychiatry, psychosomatics and psychotherapy of the University Hospital Würzburg continues:

“Since the disease is clinically and genetically very complex, as many people as possible have to be examined for each additional gain in knowledge. In addition to national efforts, this requires cooperation in large, international research consortiums. "

30 of the 44 identified loci were first described
Such a consortium with the participation of Prof. Manuel Mattheisen has now examined the genes of almost 500,000 people - 135,000 patients with depression and more than 344,000 control persons.

The results of the study were recently published in the journal "Nature Genetics".

"We were able to identify 44 gene locations that are associated with severe depression," reports Prof. Mattheisen, one of the first authors of the study.

Genort is the exact location of a particular gene or genetic marker on a chromosome. Of the identified loci, 30 were first described, while 14 had been discovered in previous studies.

According to the analyzes, all people worldwide carry at least some of the 44 identified genetic risk factors.

Open the door to biological causes
The new findings are the direct result of a global effort by over 200 scientists working together in the international Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC).

"People who combine a higher number of genetic risk factors also run an increased risk of developing depression," says Dr. Naomi Wray from the University of Queensland in Australia, who together with Dr. Patrick F. Sullivan, director of the Center for Psychiatric Genomics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine (USA), and a team of other authors led the study.

"We know that many other (environmental) factors play a role, but the identification of these genetic relationships can open the door to the biological causes," says the expert.

"With further future research efforts, we should be able to develop tools that are important for the treatment of severe depression," said Dr. Sullivan.

"In the field of pharmacogenetics, the published findings will open up new opportunities in the future to predict the response of therapies with antidepressants," adds Prof. Mattheisen. (ad)

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