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Genetic link to suicide

31 January 2000
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 43

Scientists at the Royal Ottawa Hospital in Canada have made claims that they have identified a 'suicide gene', a gene that may predispose certain people to commit suicide. Those who carry the mutated gene are said to be more than twice as likely to kill themselves than those without the faulty gene.

The scientists studied blood samples of a group of 120 patients with histories of depression. Seventy-eight of these were suicidal and 42 non-suicidal. There were more gene mutations found in the suicidal group. The researchers found that depressed patients who had a mutation in the gene coding for for a serotonin 5-HT2A receptor, a protein that transmits brain signals and is linked to mood, were more likely to have frequent suicidal tendencies.

Dr David Bakish said that the genetic discovery could be used to create a 'suicide test', whereby depressed patients who carried the mutated gene would be more closely monitored. Dr Pavel Hrdina said this would help suicidal patients because they would 'realise being suicidal is not a crazy state, but has a biological link'. UK researchers have recommended caution. Dr Til Wykes, of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, has said that even if the study is 'repeated by other researchers, what will it tell us about those people who possess this 'suicide gene' but do not kill themselves?' The findings of the Ottawa researchers will be published in The American Journal of Medical Genetics on 7 February.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Scientists track down the suicide gene
The Observer |  30 January 2000
Suicide linked to genetic mutation
MSNBC |  28 January 2000
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