Blood test to diagnose depression
According to a study published in the journal, Translational Psychiatry, clinical depression could soon be effectively diagnosed via a blood test.
The study claims this simple procedure will help doctors to identify particular molecules in the blood that signify depression, and recommend therapies that will be successful for individual patients.
People who may be vulnerable to depression will be able to have their condition diagnosed even before they experience a depressive episode.
Most significantly however, this groundbreaking test could play an important role in addressing the stigma surrounding depression and getting treatment.
Lead researcher of the study, Eva Redei Ph.D., – a neuroscientist and professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, US – said:
“I really believe that having an objective diagnosis will decrease stigma. Once you have numbers in your hand, you can identify that [depression] is an illness – not a matter of will.”
Depression is very common – affecting around one in 12 of the whole population – but it is largely misunderstood and sufferers face constant discrimination and stigma from society, and even from their friends and family.
Adding to the complexity of depression is that it currently takes an average of 40 months to diagnose – if a diagnosis is made at all.
A blood test could help to speed up this process and lead to a more accurate diagnosis, and thus could have a positive effect on how depression is perceived and treated.
The additional benefit of Redei’s blood test is that it can be carried out at any clinical laboratory, meaning results can be provided straight away.
Research into the creation of biological tests for mental illnesses is growing, and blood tests have already been developed to predict suicide risk.
Zachary Kaminsky, Ph.D., of the Mood Disorders Centre at Johns Hopkins Medicine, US is the pioneer of suicide prediction tests, and although he was not involved in Redei’s study, he shares her goals and is keen for more research.
“It’s an exciting time – there is potential to find factors that are going to distinguish between various mental illnesses as well as responses to direct clinical treatment,” he said.
“Any finding that gets us closer to that is very interesting and worth following up.”