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Markers of Depression

Researchers have identified biomarkers that could help diagnose and treat major depression from a blood test, the Economist reports.

Currently, major depression is diagnosed by physicians' assessment of patients' mood, an approach that the Economist notes can be subjective. In the journal Molecular Psychiatry last month, researchers led by Indiana University School of Medicine's Alexander Niculescu analyzed blood samples from an initial cohort of 44 people with a mood disorder to identify genes whose expression changed with differences in patients' symptoms. After testing these RNA expression markers in additional cohorts, the researchers uncovered a panel of 13 biomarkers that can not only detect depression but also predict who might go on to develop bipolar disorder. The Economist notes that three of the genes in the panel may also give insight into which treatment may be the most appropriate.

As GenomeWeb reports, Niculescu is also a co-founder of MindX Science, which is currently offering RNA expression biomarkers testing for psychiatric conditions as laboratory-developed blood tests and following further validation, plans to seek approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for its tests.

The Scan

Enzyme Involved in Lipid Metabolism Linked to Mutational Signatures

In Nature Genetics, a Wellcome Sanger Institute-led team found that APOBEC1 may contribute to the development of the SBS2 and SBS13 mutational signatures in the small intestine.

Family Genetic Risk Score Linked to Diagnostic Trajectory in Psychiatric Disorders

Researchers in JAMA Psychiatry find ties between high or low family genetic risk scores and diagnostic stability or change in four major psychiatric disorders over time.

Study Questions Existence of Fetal Microbiome

A study appearing in Nature this week suggests that the reported fetal microbiome might be the result of sample contamination.

Fruit Fly Study Explores Gut Microbiome Effects on Circadian Rhythm

With gut microbiome and gene expression experiments, researchers in PNAS see signs that the microbiome contributes to circadian rhythm synchronicity and stability in fruit flies.