Stressful events linked to genetic changes that increase risk of depression

by Thomas Deane

(Medical Xpress)—Researchers from Trinity College Dublin's Institute of Neuroscience and Department of Psychiatry believe stressful life events greatly enhance the risk of depression affecting people in later life. They link this phenomenon to changes in genetic expression, which only occur following exposure to a stressful event.

Epigenetics is a field of research devoted to understanding how , such as or deprivation, affect in the body. Although functional changes that occur this way do not alter the all-important DNA code, they do alter the way our bodies follow the 'recipes' it writes. What is especially interesting is that these changes can be passed on to children.

The authors recently published their findings in the Journal of Affective Disorders. After conducting a major systematic review of epigenetic research relating to depression, they feel that patient-specific epigenetic profiles could be useful in diagnosing and treating depression. The associated costs of depression account for 1% of the EU economy, or €113 billion per year for all mood disorders. The World Health Organisation predicts that depression will be the world's second-most debilitating disorder by 2020.

"Recent research shows that depressed patients have a different epigenetic profile compared with control subjects. What is particularly interesting is that any epigenetic changes that result from stressful events can also be passed on through subsequent generations," said Research Fellow in Trinity College's Institute of Neuroscience, Dr Victoria Dalton.

"On a deeper level, we are of course seeking to combat depression, which is such a terrible, debilitating disease for so many people. These findings give some hope that if we are able to reverse or bring about compensatory epigenetic changes, we might be on the right path to developing successful antidepressant therapies."

More information: Victoria S. Dalton, Erik Kolshus, Declan M. McLoughlin, "Epigenetics and depression: return of the repressed," Journal of Affective Disorders, Volume 155, February 2014, Pages 1-12, ISSN 0165-0327, dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2013.10.028.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Epigenetic changes could explain type 2 diabetes

Mar 07, 2014

People with type 2 diabetes have epigenetic changes on their DNA that healthy individuals do not have. This has been shown in a major study by researchers at Lund University. The researchers also found epigenetic changes ...

Childhood trauma leaves mark on DNA of some victims

Dec 02, 2012

Abused children are at high risk of anxiety and mood disorders, as traumatic experience induces lasting changes to their gene regulation. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich have ...

Recommended for you

Brains transform remote threats into anxiety

Nov 21, 2014

Modern life can feel defined by low-level anxiety swirling through society. Continual reports about terrorism and war. A struggle to stay on top of family finances and hold onto jobs. An onslaught of news ...

Mental disorders due to permanent stress

Nov 21, 2014

Activated through permanent stress, immune cells will have a damaging effect on and cause changes to the brain. This may result in mental disorders. The effects of permanent stress on the immune system are studied by the ...

Could there be a bright side to depression?

Nov 21, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—A group of researchers studying the roots of depression has developed a test that leads them closer to the idea that depression may actually be an adaptation meant to help people cope with ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.