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Diving into Depression

Drugs to treat depression are largely the same as they were 50-odd years ago, writes the Broad Institute's Steven Hyman in an editorial appearing in Nature.

Despite the challenges inherent to studying major depressive disorder — its range of symptoms and a lower estimate of heritability than for other psychiatric diseases — he argues that a large-scale genetic study of depression could unveil variants linked with the condition and identify potentially actionable targets.

"Diagnosing MDD is more challenging than measuring height, of course, but the extra effort and cost are justified to illuminate the world's greatest source of disability," he says. "We will need a global coalition to assemble the requisite number of samples."

Hyman adds that such work is beginning to get underway, following in the footsteps of schizophrenia and autism studies.

"Although the individual effects of specific risk alleles will probably be very low, the information they could yield is enormous," he says. "They will allow researchers to rely on understanding, and not just luck, to make inroads into one of the biggest causes of human misery."

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.