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King's College London - Health: More than a medical matter

Genes and depression, researchers find new region of interest

23 May 2011

By Dr Rosie Morley

Appeared in BioNews 608

Scientists believe they have identified a new genetic link to severe depression.

The research conducted as part of the Depression Network Study looked at over 800 families with recurrent depression. The researchers conducted a genome-wide analysis and found a significant link between severe depression and a region of DNA on chromosome three.

The region identified, 3p25-26, contains more than 40 genes, several of which are thought to be involved in brain function and could therefore be involved in depression. 

Lead author of the study, Dr Gerome Breen from King's College, London said: ‘These findings are truly exciting as possibly for the first time we have found a genetic locus for depression’.

The findings of the study were published in  the American Journal of Psychiatry. Other research, published in the same issue, from an independent US study also linked the same DNA region to heavy smokers with depression. According to Dr Breen, ‘This appears to be one of the strongest replicated genetic findings in studies for depression’.

The next step will be to identify which, if any, of these individual genes is linked to depression and ultimately whether they could help to explain how it is caused.

‘We are just beginning to make our way through the maze of influences on depression and this is an important step toward understanding what may be happening at the genetic and molecular levels', said Dr Michele Pergadia, who worked on the US study.



A Genome-Wide Significant Linkage for Severe Depression on Chromosome 3: The Depression Network Study
American Journal of Psychiatry | 15 May 2011
Daily Mail | 16 May 2011
Daily Mirror | 16 May 2011
Independent | 16 May 2011


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03 December 2012 - by Maren Urner 
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20 August 2012 - by Maren Urner 
Researchers at Yale University in the USA may have found an explanation for why patients with severe depression often show a decreased brain volume in certain areas of the brain... [Read More]

28 February 2011 - by Owen Clark 
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06 April 2010 - by Professor Derek Bolton 
Genetics has made enormous advances towards understanding the causes of medical and psychiatric conditions. We know from the past few decades of research that many common psychiatric conditions have some contribution from genes, ranging from modest (30 to 40 per cent) to high (over 60 per cent). Moving on from this general finding, two questions dominate current research... [Read More]
30 November 2009 - by Dr Rachael Panizzo 
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, have identified a gene that may be involved in mental illness and maintaining brain health. The scientists compared the genes of 2,000 psychiatric patients and 2,000 healthy people in Scotland. They discovered that the ABCA13 gene was faulty more frequently in patients with severe mental illness - such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression - than in the healthy control group.... [Read More]
22 June 2009 - by Dr Sarah Spain 
A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has called into question a previously reported link between a gene variation and risk of depression. The study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and carried out by scientists from six US universities, was led by Dr Kathleen Merikangas from the NIMH Intramural Research program and Dr Neil Risch of the University of California, San Francisco.... [Read More]
26 September 2008 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
Anti-depressants may be linked to male infertility, say researchers at the Cornell Medical Center in New York. Results of a study reported in the New Scientist this week reveal that males taking anti-depressants - also known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibiters (SSRIs) - could be damaging their sperm. The... [Read More]

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