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Gauge of Risk

One company says it will soon be offering a DNA-based suicide risk test, Technology Review reports.

Sundance Diagnostics plans to offer its saliva-based test, which is based on research out of the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, to doctors beginning next month for patients taking anti-depressants like Prozac or Zoloft. People just beginning anti-depressant treatment are sometimes at increased risk of suicide.

GenomeWeb Daily News reported late last year that Sundance entered into a licensing deal with Max Planck for the test. The test examines some 79 genetic markers the researchers say can correctly classifying patients at risk of antidepressant-associated suicide 91 percent of the time.

"The number of completed suicides is not large, but none of us want our loved one to be at risk. You wouldn't play roulette if it was your child," Sundance CEO Kim Bechthold tells Tech Review.

Johns Hopkins University researchers have also identified a gene that appears to be methylated in people who have committed suicide or have suicidal thoughts.

However, critics say life history and environmental factors play a role in suicide risk. And Tech Review notes that connecting to dots between someone's DNA and suicidal thoughts is difficult and not straightforward.

"I don't think there are any credible genomic tests for suicide risk or prevention," says Muin Khoury, head of the Office of Public Health Genomics at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.