When it comes to depression you can’t really prevent it nor completely cure it. This mental condition is a continuous battle aided by cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that can help an individual manage the symptoms. Along with medications that manipulate neurotransmitters such as serotonin in order to improve a person’s mood. Even then there are cases in which such treatments don’t produce positive results.
A complete cure to depression or even more effective treatments is tough for researchers to discover or create because unlike other diseases, the root cause of mental illness isn’t clear. However, a new study might help uncover the source of depression. This study was published in Nature Genetics and has revealed 15 regions on the human genome to be linked to the development of MDD or Major Depressive Disorder.
Approximately 460,000 subjects were part of the study. Researchers from Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, 23andMe, and Massachusetts General Hospital conducted it. The research was made possible by 23andMe and the numerous genetic profiles it had sequenced and stored.
The study was conducted in two rounds. In the first round the genetic information of 75,607 individuals who had gone to a doctor for symptoms of depression, and a total of 231,747 individuals who never had was used. The related information was available due to the questionnaires volunteers had filled out when they made use of 23andMe’s services. Everything was kept anonymous.
According to Ashley Winslow, a neurogeneticist and co-author of the study, “The control group was made up not just of people who had not sought treatment for depression. They were people who had actively answered a question that they had never received a diagnosis.”
The researchers looked for SNPs or single nucleotide polymorphisms shared between the depressive subjects but in the non-depressive profiles. Whenever an anomaly was found the usual function of the said area was also observed by the researchers. SNPs found in a gene that coded for baldness or height were considered as red herrings, while SNPs coding for the growth or the functioning of the human brain were considered as being more relevant, and so on.
The 15 SNPs talked about in the study were seen to be shared in individuals who had reported depression. Not only that the SNPs were located in the regions of the genome that were related to various brain functions.
The results from the first round of analysis were then checked with the results from the second round. For the second round a total of 45,733 individuals who had reported depression and 106,354 of individuals who had not were analyzed. The results were similar to the ones collected during the first round.
“Our findings are just a starting point,” says Ashley Winslow. “We’ve been dominated by decades of dogma about how we treat depression. The hope is this can lead to a novel understanding of the disease.”
Time will tell what researchers will be able to do with the new findings. Knowing about the 15 SNPs might help them develop drugs that are more refined and are able to adjust neurotransmitters in a more precise manner. The data might even be used to stop depression before it manifests itself in a person by targeting the 15 SNPs. It can even allow people to realize that there are at risk of MDD due to their genetic makeup, and they can start preventive therapy or medication earlier in life.