Scientists deduce gene that may contribute to major depression

Yale University and Texas Biomedical Research Institute scientists have localized a gene that may play a role in major depression--a major finding for a condition in which the full genetic cause remains a mystery.

RNF123 hasn't been linked to depression before, though it does affect the hippocampus region in the brain, which is changed in folks with major depression, the researchers point out. To be sure, more research is needed to solidify the gene's connection to major depression, which can be hard to treat with existing drugs without a wide range of side effects. But the finding suggests that the identification of a "depression" gene, or genes, is possible, and that the process could help establish a tantalizing new drug target through which to treat the psychiatric disorder. Nobody has yet found a single "depression" gene.

Success here would be also be significant in the marketplace. Globally, anti-depression drug sales have declined, in part, because of low response rates.

The researchers led by Yale University's David Glahn and the Hartford Hospital Institute of Living set out initially to come up with a new method to rank existing measurements of brain structure and function on their genetic importance for an illness, in order to connect biological measurements to the risk of a psychiatric illness. Those measurements have included MRI measurements of brain structure alterations or function changes, and measurement of gene expression patterns in the brain tissue of deceased patients who had depression, according to the researchers.

With that in place, they set out to use their system to localize "a candidate" gene likely to be a factor in major depression. The researchers said they hope their system will help to more easily identify genes that cause depression.

Further details are published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

- here's the release
- read another take at Psych Central
- get the study abstract

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