Unprecedented study identifies 44 genetic risk factors for major depression

April 26, 2018, King's College London
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 Consortium and co-led in the UK by King's College London, is the largest study to-date of genetic risk factors for major depression. Credit: kieferpix/King's College London

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 Consortium and co-led in the UK by King's College London, is the largest study to-date of genetic risk factors for major depression.

Published today in Nature Genetics, the research finds that the genetic basis for is shared with other psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, and that all humans carry at least some of the 44 identified in the study.

A significant number of the genetic variants identified in the study are directly linked to the targets of current antidepressant medications. Analysis of the data also suggests that having higher BMI is linked to an increased risk of major depression.

Previous studies have struggled to identify more than a handful of genetic variants associated with depression. By combining seven separate datasets, the research team included data on more than 135,000 people with major depression and more than 344,000 controls.

The study was an unprecedented global effort by over 200 scientists who work with the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, and was led by the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and the University of Queensland in Australia. Professor Cathryn Lewis and Dr. Gerome Breen of King's College London led the UK contribution, along with scientists and psychiatrists from the Universities of Edinburgh, Cardiff and UCL.

'With this study, depression genetics has advanced to the forefront of genetic discovery,' says Dr. Breen from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King's College London. 'The new genetic variants discovered have the potential to revitalise by opening up avenues for the discovery of new and improved therapies."

Major depression affects approximately 14% of the global population and is the biggest contributor to long term disability in the general population worldwide. Yet only about half of patients respond well to existing treatments.

'Depression is an incredibly common disorder that affects millions of people in the UK,' says Professor Lewis of the IoPPN, who is leading efforts to conduct even larger international studies.

'This study has shed a bright light on the of depression, but it is only the first step,' added Professor Lewis. 'We need further research to uncover more of the genetic underpinnings, and to understand how genetics and environmental stressors work together to increase risk of .'

In the UK, the work was partly-funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King's College London, and the Medical Research Council.

Explore further: Depression study pinpoints genes that may trigger the condition

More information: Genome-wide association analyses identify 44 risk variants and refine the genetic architecture of major depression, Nature Genetics (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41588-018-0090-3

Related Stories

Depression study pinpoints genes that may trigger the condition

April 16, 2018
Nearly 80 genes that could be linked to depression have been discovered by scientists.

New method could fast-track existing drugs as novel treatments for depression

February 17, 2017
Research from King's College London reveals a new method of repurposing existing drugs as novel treatments for depression, using laboratory studies of brain cells.

Scientists reveal how inflammation affects the life of brain cells

October 10, 2017
New King's College London research reveals how blood inflammation affects the birth and death of brain cells, which could offer new treatment targets for antidepressants.

Faster biological ageing could increase risk for depression in childhood

February 24, 2017
Genetic factors which predispose people to accelerated 'biological ageing' also increase their risk of developing depression in childhood, according to a new study from King's College London.

Depression and alcoholism linked to one gene in African Americans

October 26, 2017
A gene variant involved in brain development is strongly associated with the risk of developing both major depression and alcoholism in African Americans, according to a new genome-wide association study (GWAS) by Yale and ...

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 ...

Recommended for you

Even toddlers weigh risks, rewards when making choices

September 21, 2018
Every day, adults conduct cost-benefit analyses in some form for decisions large and small, economic and personal: Bring a lunch or go out? Buy or rent? Remain single or start a family? All are balances of risk and reward.

Early warning sign of psychosis detected

September 21, 2018
Brains of people at risk of psychosis exhibit a pattern that can help predict whether they will go on to develop full-fledged schizophrenia, a new Yale-led study shows. The findings could help doctors begin early intervention ...

Researchers identify new genetic disorder

September 21, 2018
Researchers from Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and physicians from Spectrum Health have identified for the first time in a human patient a genetic disorder only previously described in animal models.

Test could detect patients at risk from lethal fungal spores

September 20, 2018
Scientists at The University of Manchester have discovered a genetic mutation in humans linked to a 17-fold increase in the amount of dangerous fungal spores in the lungs.

Quitting junk food produces similar withdrawal-type symptoms as drug addiction

September 20, 2018
If you plan to try and quit junk food, expect to suffer similar withdrawal-type symptoms—at least during the initial week—like addicts experience when they attempt to quit using drugs.

In depression the brain region for stress control is larger

September 20, 2018
Although depression is one of the leading psychiatric disorders in Germany, its cause remains unclear. A recent study at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig, Germany, found ...

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.