Potential blood test to diagnose depression

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Scientists have stated that after discovering chemicals in the blood of those suffering depression, it may be possible to make use of a blood test for diagnosis of the condition.

Presently, depression is diagnosed by consultation with doctors and is based on screening tests and mood tests by the use of questionnaires.

Implementing a biological sign of depression will indicate that the condition should be classified as a disease, rather than ‘being sad all the time’.

A team based at Northwestern University, Chicago, screened blood from teenagers to find chemicals that may be present in those who suffered from early onset major depression and were not present in healthy teenagers. The test involved studies of 14 teenagers with early onset major depression and 14 healthy teenagers.

These tests were based on animal studies where 26 markers were found to be linked with genetic and stress features linked to brain damage.

Early onset major depression carries a much worse prognosis than adult onset depression. It affects around 25% of those in their late teens. The condition has been linked to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s during later life and a suitable test may help in the prediction of these later diseases.

The co-author of the report, Eva Redei, said the chemicals found in the blood could be considered as a ‘neurodegenerative fingerprint’ which highlights that there are potential problems.

She said the test results indicate that blood tests can be used as a diagnostic measure. The next step in the process is to test the initial findings in a large sample of teenagers with major depressive disorder and to compare the findings with teenagers without any psychiatric disorders, as well as teenagers who have been diagnosed with other psychiatric disorders.

She added that measuring the chemicals in the blood could become a useful method of checking whether the treatments for depression and other diseases are effective.

Image Credit: Lloyd Morgan

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