Biomedical

Suicide and Depression. Is it genetic? (2018)

A recent study showed that suicide has been rising since 1999. How much of it is genetic? That was my first question after this topic was brought into attention recently by scientists and celebrities.

A new government study released reveals that suicide has been on the rise nationwide since 1999. The figures were released in the week when the deaths of designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain brought the issue to the fore.

Another recent study says that about 40% of the variation in liability to major depressive disorder can be attributed to genetics according to twin studies. So there are genes that affect depression. Specifically single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) appear to be very important in showing which gene is miss regulated and thus responsible for depressive symptoms in an individual.

More than 153 genes have been associated with depression with varying degrees of importance each. 53 of them were in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) region.From the genes found the pathophysiology of major depressive disorder is connected to neuronal calcium signaling, dopaminergic neurotransmission, glutamate neurotransmission and presynaptic vesicle trafficking.

Major depressive disorder genes are very similar to genes associated with schizophrenia. Certainly genes affecting mood and behaviour will be close, and it is even more logical if you consider that such disorder are the result of many faulty genes. In this study the author suggested that because the changes are in genes that affect brain cells and because the changes were not in places that code for proteins (exons), but in the sequences between (introns), that the result may be due to an epigenetic fault. And i would like to find out (maybe in a future study) how many of those epigenetic changes may be due to environmental factors. Although this is not certain, we do know that some regions between the genes can be affected by long non-coding RNAs (lncRNA) and those can be influenced by environmental factors.

It is great that we see progress in this field. Knowing that such advancements in the understanding of such disorders will improve the lives of thousands or even millions of people is amazing. New technologies to genotype individuals and look for changes in the genome between healthy and depressed individuals are very important and are getting better and cheaper every day. So if you do suffer from such disorders those are great news, and there is always help for everyone! It is always good to bring such topics into the news because they affect a lot of people and are very important.

Sources: Genome-wide association analyses identify 44 risk variants and refine the genetic architecture of major depression

Why US suicide rate is on the rise

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