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8 Apr, 2021 15:40

Mood disorder diagnosis: Scientists develop blood test to identify mental health issues including depression

Mood disorder diagnosis: Scientists develop blood test to identify mental health issues including depression

Feeling depressed or up one moment, down the next? Soon doctors could have a blood test to diagnose mental health disorders, thanks to research that points to quicker treatments for those suffering from depression.

Diagnosing and treating depression and bipolar disorder currently rely on trial and error methods, but researchers from the Indiana University (IU) School of Medicine say they have found a biological basis for mood disorders – and a blood test is being developed for a quicker diagnosis and potential treatment path.

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About one person in four will suffer from at least one episode of severe depression during their lifetime, according to the researchers. The team also say their work points the way to understanding how genes regulate seasonal, day-night and sleep-wake cycles, and explains why some people are affected by mood disorders caused by poor sleeping patterns.

“Through this work, we wanted to develop blood tests for depression and for bipolar disorder to distinguish between the two, and to match people to the right treatments,” said Alexander Niculescu, a professor of psychiatry at IU who led the study.

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These blood tests can open the door to precise, personalized matching with medications, and objective monitoring of response to treatment.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, said the new tests can determine how severe a patient’s depression is, the risk of them developing severe depression in the future and the risk of future bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness. The test could be used to help make more tailored medication choices for patients undergoing treatment.

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The study followed more than 300 participants recruited from a hospital in Indianapolis and recorded how biological markers in their blood changed according to their moods. Niculescu’s team then worked with large medical databases to identify 26 biological markers in people with depression or mania. These markers were also tested to see how well they could predict who is ill – or would become ill in the future.

Niculescu said the research could be used both in clinical practice and in the development of new drugs.

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