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Scientists identified genes linked to depression

Posted December 22, 2017

Depression is a debilitating disease, which affects one in five people. It pretty much takes away will to live and often ends tragically. Scientists noticed for a long time that number of people with depression symptoms increases dramatically during tough economic times, which could mean that depression is caused by the environment. However, not researchers found genes associated with it.

Human happiness levels vary dramatically and depression affects one in five people. Some gene variations may be the answer why. Image credit: Andrew Mason via Wikimedia(CC BY 2.5)

Understanding the real causes of depression could lead to better treatments and public health policies designed to prevent drastic measures taken by depression sufferers. Scientists analysed a lot of genetic information from a group of people aged from 39 to 73. Scientists paid attention to people’s neuroticism, which is characterised by feelings of anxiety, worry and guilt. This study included DNA of over 300,000 people and their neuroticism was measured by a personality questionnaire.  Results were rather surprising, but explained a lot about mental health and depression statistics.

Scientists from The University of Edinburg identified 116 gene variations linked to neuroticism. Half of these variations are active in the brain. Interestingly, further analysis showed that these genes associated with neuroticism actually overlap with genes linked to a susceptibility to depression and some other psychiatric conditions.  In other words, depression may be encoded in the genes already, making some people very vulnerable to the condition. This could have implications to depression treatment and diagnosis. However, it is also interesting that some personality traits, such as anxiety, excessive worrying and the sense of guilt can be linked to depression.

Scientists say that these discoveries can act like resources for the way to new treatments and better understanding why happiness in humans differs so much. Prof. Ian Deary, one of the scientists behind the research, said: “For millennia it has been recognised that people have a greater or lesser tendency to feel low, worry, and experience other negative emotions. We knew that a part of the explanation is genetic differences between people, but it’s been a mystery which genes are involved”.

Of course, these results are meaningless by themselves. Scientists still need to find ways to employ them for a greater good. However, that may take time until depression treatment and diagnosis can be improved using these new discoveries.


Source: The University of Edinburg

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