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Genetic Variants in Depressed People Raise Suicide Risk
Date:2/1/2010

Certain mutations increase the likelihood nearly fivefold, study finds

MONDAY, Feb. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have identified five gene variants that raise the risk for suicide attempts in people suffering from depression.

For now, the research provides insight into what goes awry in people who have suicidal tendencies. In the future, researchers hope the findings will translate into effective drug treatments.

"The goal of this kind of research is to find mechanistic targets for new therapies," explained study author Martin A. Kohli, a postdoctoral fellow at the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "It's a hint towards the search for new medications. We think we've discovered a new target for such kind of medication."

Kohli conducted the research while at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany. The study, published online Feb. 1, will appear in the April print issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

According to background information in the paper, 10 million to 20 million suicide attempts occur annually around the world. One million complete the act.

Previous research has indicated that reduced neurotrophic activity may be involved in major depressive disorder and suicidal behavior. Neurotrophins are proteins that keep neurons -- specialized cells in the nervous system -- alive and active.

"There is a lot of data from a lot of different sources that say that something is wrong with the neurotrophin system in people that develop [a tendency toward] suicide," confirmed Keith Young, vice chair of research psychiatry and behavioral science at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, in Temple.

The researchers zeroed in on two genes because postmortem brain studies had shown reduced levels of these genes in suicide victims.

For the first phase of the
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