Blood Test May Help in Detecting Suicidal Tendencies: Study

First Posted: Aug 21, 2013 10:06 AM EDT

A new finding from Indiana University School of Medicine has identified genetic biomarkers that might assist in identifying suicidal tendencies in a person.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine and led by Alexander B. Niculescu III, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and medical neuroscience, has identified a significant high level of RNA biomarkers in the blood of bipolar disorder victims who have suicidal thoughts as well as those who had committed suicide.

"Suicide is a big problem in psychiatry. It's a big problem in the civilian realm, it's a big problem in the military realm and there are no objective markers," said Dr. Niculescu, director of the Laboratory of Neurophenomics at the Institute of Psychiatric Research,IU School of Medicine. "There are people who will not reveal they are having suicidal thoughts when you ask them, who then commit it and there's nothing you can do about it. We need better ways to identify, intervene and prevent these tragic cases."

According to the researchers, this finding provides the first proof for a test that will offer an early warning of patients who are at a higher risk of suicide.

During the three-year study the researchers examined a group of bipolar victims and carried a series of blood tests and interviews. Apart from this, they conducted several tests on people who swayed from severe suicidal tendencies to no suicidal thoughts. They discovered a variation in the gene expression between "low" and "high" states of suicidal thoughts. The difference was then subjected to a system called Convergent Functional Genomics that helped the researchers identify the most probable genetic markers that are linked to suicidal tendencies.

With the help of this system they identified a genetic marker called SAT1 and other markers that were associated with suicidal thoughts.

The researchers analyzed blood samples of people who had committed suicide and noticed that the same genetic markers were present in elevated levels. They also conducted blood tests on two sets of patients and noticed that the elevated levels of biomarkers helped in predicting the person's risk of being hospitalized due to impulsive suicide attempt.

"This suggests that these markers reflect more than just a current state of high risk, but could be trait markers that correlate with long term risk," said Dr. Niculescu. "There could be gender differences; we would also like to conduct more extensive, normative studies, in the population at large."

The study reports that each year worldwide nearly a million people die from suicide.

 The study was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry

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