30 new genetic risk factors for depression discovered
Severe depression affects about 14 percent of the world's population and contributes most to long-term disability and incapacity for work. However, only about half of the patients respond well to existing treatments. In addition to certain life experiences, genetic factors can also contribute to the risk of depression. A global research project has worked out the genetic basis of severe depression and identified 44 genetic variants that are considered risk factors for the development of depression.
30 of these variants were rediscovered. The study by the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium was led by King's College in London and is the largest study of its kind to date. The results of the major depression analysis also suggest that a higher body mass index (BMI) is at higher risk for severe depression is associated. The research was recently published in the renowned science journal "Nature Genetics".
What do depression and schizophrenia have in common?
The study scientists found that the genetic basis for severe depression is similar to other psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. According to the analyzes, all people worldwide carry at least some of the 44 identified genetic risk factors.
Previous studies had difficulty identifying more than a handful of depression-related genetic variants. By combining seven separate data sets, the research team analyzed data from more than 135,000 people with severe depression. The results were checked in more than 344,000 controls. King’s College’s press release in London on the study speaks of an “unprecedented global effort by over 200 scientists”.
New and improved therapies
A significant number of the genetic variants identified in the study are directly related to the targets of current antidepressant drugs. "The new genetic variants have the potential to revitalize depression treatment by opening ways to discover new and improved therapies," reports Dr. Gerome Breen from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College in London.
The top position in genetic discovery
"This study has brought depression genetics to the forefront of genetic discovery," said Breen. "Depression is an incredibly common condition that affects millions of people," added Professor Cathryn Lewis, who, together with Breen, coordinated the UK contribution to the study.
Research is now to be continued
The new findings should now be used to prevent and treat depression. The Australian researcher Professor Naomi Wray from the University of Queensland, who led the international study, is now looking for volunteers with her team who have been diagnosed with clinical depression to build on this study.
We all have a potential depression
"We have shown that all people have genetic variants for depression, but those with higher stress levels are more susceptible," Wray explains. The identification of the genetic factors also opens new doors for the research of environmental factors.
"We also want to understand the factors that lead to the differences between people in their responses to different antidepressants," said Wray in a press release from the University of Queensland, which is looking for volunteers to continue their studies. Wray wants to motivate more people suffering from depression to participate in the research.
Depression is very complex
"Depression is very complex from a genetic point of view," adds Professor Nick Martin, one of the main authors of the study by the Brisbane medical research institute QIMR Berghofer. The more people that can be included in the study, the more thoroughly the understanding of this disease will improve.
The new study aims to ask people about their experiences with antidepressants with the aim of improving the effectiveness of these drugs. "Our ultimate goal is to develop improved treatments and to be able to specifically recommend antidepressants for the respective genetic makeup," says Martin. (vb)