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

New platform poised to be next generation of genetic medicines

July 16, 2018
A City of Hope scientist has discovered a gene-editing technology that could efficiently and accurately correct the genetic defects that underlie certain diseases, positioning the new tool as the basis for the next generation ...

Genetic marker for drug risk in multiple sclerosis offers path toward precision medicine

July 16, 2018
A team of researchers has uncovered a specific gene variant associated with an adverse drug reaction resulting in liver injury in a people with multiple sclerosis (MS). It is the first time researchers have been able to establish ...

Researchers suggest new treatment for rare inherited cancers

July 16, 2018
Studying two rare inherited cancer syndromes, Yale Cancer Center (YCC) scientists have found the cancers are driven by a breakdown in how cells repair their DNA. The discovery, published today in Nature Genetics, suggests ...

Overcoming a major barrier to developing liquid biopsies

July 16, 2018
The idea of testing blood or urine to find markers that help diagnose or treat disease holds great promise. But as technology has improved to allow researchers to examine tiny fragments of RNA, one major problem has led to ...

AI accurately predicts effects of genetic mutations in biological dark matter

July 16, 2018
A new machine learning framework, dubbed ExPecto, can predict the effects of genetic mutations in the so-called "dark matter" regions of the human genome. ExPecto pinpoints how specific mutations can disrupt the way genes ...

Early puberty in white adolescent boys increases substance use risk

July 16, 2018
White adolescent boys experiencing early puberty are at higher risk for substance use than later developing boys, a new Purdue University study finds.

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.