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Suicidal Ideation-Linked Loci Identified Using Million Veteran Program Data

For a paper appearing in PLOS Genetics, a team from the Duke Molecular Physiology Institute, the Durham Veterans Affairs Health Care System, and elsewhere sharing findings from a genome-wide association study focused on finding variants involved in suicidal ideation in Million Veteran Program (MVP) study participants. With MVP electronic health record data, the researchers first found more than 99,800 individuals with a history of suicidal ideation or death by suicide, using an ancestry-specific GWAS approach to search for variants that distinguished these individuals from nearly 512,600 controls without a suicide-related health history. When they analyzed individuals from four ancestry groups together, the authors tracked down associations involving variants at four loci, for example, while a gene set-centered analysis highlighted synaptic- and startle response pathways. The study also pointed to a handful of variant- and gene-level associations that were specific to individuals from the European ancestry group, while a genetic correlation analysis suggested that suicidal ideation or behaviors may overlap with conditions such as major depressive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. "Our novel findings suggest that multiple genes contribute to genetic risk for suicidal ideation and that the genetic risk is largely shared with suicide attempt and other psychiatric conditions that frequently co-occur with suicidal ideation," the investigators write, adding that the current results "shed light on the underlying biology of suicidal ideation and may aid in the development of treatments and interventions."