Blood Test Can Diagnose Adult Depression

Researchers have developed a blood test that identifies specific markers to diagnose depression in adults.
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Researchers have developed a blood test that identifies specific markers to diagnose depression in adults.

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The symptoms of depression can vary from person to person, so diagnosis isn't always easy. Scientists from Northwestern Medicine have developed a blood test that can actually diagnose depression in adults. It measures the levels of nine RNA blood markers to identify depression. RNA molecules interpret genetic code from DNA and carry out instructions.

Additionally, the blood test predicts if the patient will benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy. This can lead to more effective, personalized therapy for those suffering from depression.

The test will also show the biological effects of cognitive behavioral therapy, which marks this as the first measurable, blood-based evidence of the therapy's success. Marker levels were changed in patients who received therapy for 18 weeks to show that they were no longer depressed.

“This clearly indicates that you can have a blood-based laboratory test for depression, providing a scientific diagnosis in the same way someone is diagnosed with high blood pressure or high cholesterol,” said Eva Redei, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University and co-lead author of the study. “This test brings mental health diagnosis into the 21st century and offers the first personalized medicine approach to people suffering from depression.”

Redei previously developed a blood test to detect depression in adolescents, but most of the markers were different than those identified in adults. In the study, Redei found that three of the nine RNA markers remained different in depressed adult patients and non-depressed controls, even if the depressed patients had achieved remission. This can help to indicate if some are more vulnerable to depression than others.

“These three markers move us towards the ultimate goal of identifying predisposition to depression, even in the absence of a current depressive episode,” said Redei.

Redei will next test results in a larger population. She also has plans to test the difference between major depression and bipolar disorder.

Learn more about the blood test in the video below. 

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