October 5, 2014

First Blood Test for Depression May Be Available Soon

Things are looking up for people with depression. In my previous blog on tests for depression this came to light - if depression could be detected via a blood test or urine test, it would clearly be in the realm of ‘medical illness’ and therefore a real problem that is not due to individual weakness or other equally stigmatizing reasons. Now we have a blood test for diagnosing severe or major depression and it has been developed by Northwestern Medicine® scientists.

This they claim is a breakthrough that provides the first objective, scientific diagnosis for depression. Apparently, they have not followed the information from my blog link above. The test identifies depression by measuring the levels of nine RNA blood markers. RNA molecules are the messengers that interpret the DNA genetic code and carry out its instructions.

Besides helping diagnosis of depression, the blood test will also predict who will benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy based on the behavior of some of the markers. Individualized therapy for people with depression will become more effective and individualized.

The research also showed that the test showed the biological effects of cognitive behavioral therapy, the first measurable, blood-based evidence of the therapy’s success. The levels of markers changed in patients who had the therapy for 18 weeks and were no longer depressed.

Eva Redei, co-lead author of the study, had previously developed a blood test that diagnosed depression in adolescents. Most of the markers she identified in the adult depression panel are different from those in depressed adolescents. Redei developed the test and is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Co-lead author David Mohr, a professor of preventive medicine and director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies at Feinberg says, “This study brings us much closer to having laboratory tests that can be used in diagnosis and treatment selection.”

The current method of diagnosing depression is subjective and based on non-specific symptoms such as poor mood, fatigue, and change in appetite, all of which can apply to a large number of mental or physical problems. A diagnosis also relies on the patient’s ability to report his symptoms and the physician’s ability to interpret them. But depressed patients frequently under report or inadequately describe their symptoms.

Eva Redei says, “This test brings mental health diagnosis into the 21st century and offers the first personalized medicine approach to people suffering from depression.”

It is time for science to catch up with all forms of depression and provide scientific evidence to blunt the stigmatism often attached to depression.

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