Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. According to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older have this condition. Undetected and untreated, it can lead to several emotional and physiological problems. However, researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago have developed a new blood test to confirm this disorder just like any other physical ailment. According to the study published online in the journal Translational Psychiatry, the test can precisely diagnose people suffering from clinical depression. The test can
- Help physicians identify people who are especially vulnerable to this state – even before they’ve gone through a depressive episode
- Identify if a person is clinically depressed
- Predict which therapies would be most successful for a patient
- Predict if a patient will respond to cognitive behavioral therapy
To identify the disorder, the test measures the levels of nine RNA blood markers – ADCY3, DGKA, FAM46A, IGSF4A/CADM1, KIAA1539, MARCKS, PSME1, RAPH1 and TLR7. The blood samples of 32 patients who had been diagnosed with depression in the traditional way were compared with samples taken from 32 people without depression. The depressed patients went through 18 weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy, the common treatment for this condition. Their blood was re-tested and the changes in their RNA markers were examined to tell which patients had benefited the most from therapy.
The lead author of the study says that the next step in the research would be to run the test on larger samples and then, depending on the results, submit it for FDA approval. Once approved, clinical laboratories can perform this blood test like any other ordered tests.