Today's Health: A genetic link to depression?

    7:15 PM, Nov 7, 2011   |    comments
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    UNDATED (KTHV) -- Researchers could be close to actually figuring out what causes depression, and who might be at higher risk than others.

    What if there was a way to determine who's at risk for depression? That's the challenge for scientist John Blangero at Texas Biomed. His team has taken blood samples, brain images and psychiatric histories from more than 1,100 people in San Antonio, and the five-year study yielded an exciting answer - a specific gene on chromosome three that seems to be used to predict depression. It's called RNF 123.

    "So you can kind of think of it like hdl cholesterol and heart disease," explains Blangero. "You know, where HDL cholesterol's the good cholesterol. So having more of it is a good thing. Well, having more of this RNF 123 appears to be a good thing in relation to your risk of depression."

    The findings are published in the October edition of the journal Biological Psychiatry.

    Pinpointing that genetic depression risk would be impossible without the massive computing power at Texas Biomed. 8,000 processors are tied together running 24 - 7. The data-sifting is like a hi-tech version of finding a needle in a haystack.

    This biomarker may serve as a way to test for depression risk, and more importantly, create a new target for future, better, medications.

    "It's kind of a new approach to finding drug targets that's less dependent upon serendipity and luck. It's base purely on biology," Blangero says.

    The depression genetics study was actually conducted at both Texas Biomed in San Antonio - and at Yale University. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

    According to the Centers for Disease control, Anti-depressants are the third most widely prescribed drugs at doctor's offices. The top 2 include pain killers and cholesterol lowering medications.


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