In a major breakthrough, a blood test using RNA markers is offering new hope to people with depression. The blood test was lanched by a team of researchers from Indiana University School of Medicine in the US in April.
“Our study shows that it is possible to have a blood test for depression and bipolar disorder, that have clinical utility, can distinguish between the two, and match people to the right medications,” said psychiatrist and geneticist Dr Alexander Niculescu, who led the research.
“This avoids years of trials and error, hospitalisations, and side-effects. As these are very common disorders, we think we can do a lot of good with this and other tests and apps we have developed,” he added.
The researchers studied the biological basis of mood disorders and succeeded in developing a tool which can help in distinguishing the type of mood disorder, including depression or bipolar disorder.
Dr Niculescu and his team used the experiences and observations of 15 years of previous research to develop the test. They use their previous findings to find out how psychiatry relates to blood gene expression biomarkers.
According to Dr Niculescu, every system in the body – the brain, the nervous system, the immune system – has a common developmental route.
“For example, when you’re stressed or depressed, there are psycho-neurological mechanisms, hormones and other things that are released that affect your blood and your immune system,” he told Al Jazeera.
This means that an immune activation or inflammation would have an effect on the brain.
“Depending on which of those biomarkers are changed in [a patient], we have a list of medications … ranked by how tightly they match [the patient’s] biological profile,” Dr Niculescu said.
The blood tests are now available as CLIA tests for physicians to order, via a company set up by Niculescu and other experts.Internet Explorer Channel Network