Depression study pinpoints genes that may trigger the condition

April 16, 2018, University of Edinburgh
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Nearly 80 genes that could be linked to depression have been discovered by scientists.

The findings could help explain why some people may be at a higher risk of developing the condition, researchers say.

The study could also help researchers develop drugs to tackle mental ill-health, experts say.

Depression affects one in five people in the UK every year and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Life events - such as trauma or stress - can contribute to its onset, but it is not clear why some people are more likely to develop the condition than others.

Scientists led by the University of Edinburgh analysed data from UK Biobank - a research resource containing health and genetic information for half a million people.

They scanned the genetic code of 300,000 people to identify areas of DNA that could be linked to depression.

Some of the pinpointed genes are known to be involved in the function of synapses, tiny connectors that allow brain cells to communicate with each other through electrical and chemical signals.

The scientists then confirmed their findings by examining anonymised data held by the personal genetics and research company 23andMe, used with the donors' consent.

The study, published in Nature Communications, was funded by Wellcome as part of Stratifying Resilience and Depression Longitudinally, a £4.7 million project to better understand the condition.

Professor Andrew McIntosh of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, who leads the Edinburgh-based research group, said: "Depression is a common and often severe condition that affects millions of people worldwide. These new findings help us better understand the causes of depression and show how the UK Biobank study and big data research has helped advance mental health research.

"We hope that the UK's growing health data research capacity will help us to make major advances in our understanding of depression in coming years."

Dr David Howard, Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences and lead author of the study, said: "This study identifies genes that potentially increase our risk of depression, adding to the evidence that it is partly a genetic disorder. The findings also provide new clues to the causes of and we hope it will narrow down the search for therapies that could help people living with the condition."

Explore further: Chronic pain linked to partners of people with depression

More information: Genome-wide association study of depression phenotypes in UK Biobank identifies variants in excitatory synaptic pathways, Nature Communications (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-03819-3

Related Stories

Chronic pain linked to partners of people with depression

August 16, 2016
Partners of people with depression are more likely to suffer from chronic pain, research has found.

Personality trait shares genetic link with depression

December 21, 2017
Scientists analysed the DNA of over 300,000 people and found many genes linked to neuroticism – characterised by feelings of anxiety, worry and guilt. The genes are also linked to depression. The findings help shed light ...

Depression changes structure of the brain, study suggests

July 21, 2017
Changes in the brain's structure that could be the result of depression have been identified in a major scanning study.

Insights into depression could aid development of new treatments

February 26, 2018
Fresh insights into changes in the brain linked to depression could pave the way for new therapies.

Over years, depression changes the brain, new study shows

February 27, 2018
Is clinical depression always the same illness, or does it change over time?

Epileptic seizures and depression may share a common genetic cause, study suggests

January 10, 2018
From the time of Hippocrates, physicians have suspected a link between epilepsy and depression. Now, for the first time, scientists at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Columbia University have found evidence that seizures ...

Recommended for you

Unprecedented study identifies 44 genetic risk factors for major depression

April 26, 2018
A global research project has mapped out the genetic basis of major depression, identifying 44 genetic variants which are risk factors for depression, 30 of which are newly discovered. The study, by the Psychiatric Genomics ...

New testing provides better information for parents of children with form of epilepsy

April 26, 2018
Advances in genetic testing offer new insights to parents who have a child with a rare but serious form of epilepsy, epileptic encephalopathy (EE), found in one of about every 2,000 births and characterized by developmental ...

Millennial men value altruism and self-care above traditional male qualities

April 25, 2018
Contrary to popular stereotypes, young men today are likely to be selfless, socially engaged and health-conscious, according to a new study from the University of British Columbia and Intensions Consulting, a Vancouver-based ...

Maternal binge drinking linked to mood problems and alcohol abuse in offspring

April 25, 2018
Binge drinking by pregnant and lactating mothers can impair the mental health of their offspring, reports a study published today in Frontiers in Psychiatry. In a rat model, Italian researchers find that while habitual drinking ...

Indications of psychosis appear in cortical folding

April 25, 2018
Imaging techniques can be used to detect the development of psychosis in the brains of high-risk patients at an early stage, as reported by researchers from the University of Basel and Western University in the journal JAMA ...

Engaging in physical activity decreases people's chance of developing depression

April 24, 2018
An international team including researchers from King's College London have found physical activity can protect against the emergence of depression, regardless of age and geographical region.

0 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.