Navigation Links
Genetic predictors of postpartum depression uncovered by Hopkins researchers
Date:5/21/2013

The epigenetic modifications, which alter the way genes function without changing the underlying DNA sequence, can apparently be detected in the blood of pregnant women during any trimester, potentially providing a simple way to foretell depression in the weeks after giving birth, and an opportunity to intervene before symptoms become debilitating.

The findings of the small study involving 52 pregnant women are described online in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

"Postpartum depression can be harmful to both mother and child," says study leader Zachary Kaminsky, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "But we don't have a reliable way to screen for the condition before it causes harm, and a test like this could be that way."

It is not clear what causes postpartum depression, a condition marked by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, exhaustion and anxiety that begins within four weeks of childbirth and can last weeks, several months or up to a year. An estimated 10 to 18 percent of all new mothers develop the condition, and the rate rises to 30 to 35 percent among women with previously diagnosed mood disorders. Scientists long believed the symptoms were related to the large drop-off in the mother's estrogen levels following childbirth, but studies have shown that both depressed and nondepressed women have similar estrogen levels.

By studying mice, the Johns Hopkins researchers suspected that estrogen induced epigenetic changes in cells in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that governs mood. Kaminsky and his team then created a complicated statistical model to find the candidate genes most likely undergoing those epigenetic changes, which could be potential predictors for postpartum depression. That process resulted in the identification of two genes, known as TTC9B and HP1BP3, about which little is known save for their involvement in hippocampal activity.

Kaminsky says the genes in question may have something to do with the creation of new cells in the hippocampus and the ability of the brain to reorganize and adapt in the face of new environments two elements important in mood. In some ways, he says, estrogen can behave like an antidepressant, so that when inhibited, it adversely affects mood.

The researchers later confirmed their findings in humans by looking for epigenetic changes to thousands of genes in blood samples from 52 pregnant women with mood disorders. Jennifer L. Payne, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Women's Mood Disorders Center, collected the blood samples. The women were followed both during and after pregnancy to see who developed postpartum depression.

The researchers noticed that women who developed postpartum depression exhibited stronger epigenetic changes in those genes that are most responsive to estrogen, suggesting that these women are more sensitive to the hormone's effects. Specifically, two genes were most highly correlated with the development of postpartum depression. TTC9B and HP1BP3 predicted with 85 percent certainty which women became ill.

"We were pretty surprised by how well the genes were correlated with postpartum depression," Kaminsky says. "With more research, this could prove to be a powerful tool."

Kaminsky says the next step in research would be to collect blood samples from a larger group of pregnant women and follow them for a longer period of time. He also says it would be useful to examine whether the same epigenetic changes are present in the offspring of women who develop postpartum depression.

Evidence suggests that early identification and treatment of postpartum depression can limit or prevent debilitating effects. Alerting women to the condition's risk factors as well as determining whether they have a previous history of the disorder, other mental illness and unusual stress is key to preventing long-term problems.

Research also shows, Kaminsky says, that postpartum depression not only affects the health and safety of the mother, but also her child's mental, physical and behavioral health.

Kaminsky says that if his preliminary work pans out, he hopes a blood test for the epigenetic biomarkers could be added to the battery of tests women undergo during pregnancy, and inform decisions about the use of antidepressants during pregnancy. There are concerns, he says, about the effects of these drugs on the fetus and their use must be weighed against the potentially debilitating consequences to both the mother and child of forgoing them.

"If you knew you were likely to develop postpartum depression, your decisions about managing your care could be made more clearly," he says.


'/>"/>

Contact: Stephanie Desmon
sdesmon1@jhmi.edu
410-955-8665
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Genetic risk for schizophrenia is connected to reduced IQ
2. European Society of Human Genetics urges caution over use of new genetic sequencing techniques
3. University of Maryland Medical Center launches genetic-testing program for cardiac patients
4. Penn Medicine researchers identify 4 new genetic risk factors for testicular cancer
5. Fred Hutch evolutionary geneticist Harmit Malik selected as an HHMI investigator
6. Genetic and clinical factors best to predict late recurrence in estrogen receptor POS breast cancer
7. Study examines effects of genetic variants for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome
8. Genetics Society of Americas GENETICS journal highlights for May 2013
9. Europe needs genetically engineered crops, scientists say
10. Epigenetic changes shed light on biological mechanism of autism
11. Genetic circuit allows both individual freedom, collective good
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/9/2016)... 2016 Elevay is currently known ... freedom for high net worth professionals seeking travel for ... connected world, there is still no substitute for a ... sealing your deal with a firm handshake. This is ... advantage of citizenship via investment programs like those offered ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... , April 28, 2016 First quarter ... (139.9), up 966% compared with the first quarter of 2015 ... totaled SEK 589.1 M (loss: 18.8) and the operating margin was ... (loss: 0.32) Cash flow from operations was SEK 249.9 ... 2016 revenue guidance is unchanged, SEK 7,000-8,500 M. The ...
(Date:4/19/2016)... 20, 2016 The new GEZE ... compact web-based "all-in-one" system solution for all door components. ... or the door interface with integration authorization management system, ... systems. The minimal dimensions of the access control and ... building installations offer considerable freedom of design with regard ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/27/2016)... SAN DIEGO , June 27, 2016  Sequenom, ... company committed to enabling healthier lives through the development ... Supreme Court of the United States ... Federal courts that the claims of Sequenom,s U.S. Patent ... the patent eligibility criteria established by the Supreme Court,s ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... , ... June 27, 2016 , ... ... for Amgen, will join the faculty of the University of North Carolina ... professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at UNC Kenan-Flagler, with a focus on the ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... 24, 2016 Epic Sciences unveiled a ... susceptible to PARP inhibitors by targeting homologous recombination ... The new test has already been incorporated into ... cancer types. Over 230 clinical trials ... pathways, including PARP, ATM, ATR, DNA-PK and WEE-1. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... 23, 2016 , ... UAS LifeSciences, one of the leading ... UP4™ Probiotics, into Target stores nationwide. The company, which has been manufacturing high ... its list of well-respected retailers. This list includes such fine stores as Whole ...
Breaking Biology Technology: