An Outstanding Blood Test to Predict Suicide Risks

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By Indrani Bhattacharyya | July 31, 2014 1:23 PM EST

It could be possible soon to figure out if suicide is in your mind just by performing a simple blood test.

This result of this striking discovery got published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

Reuters
Injectable drugs are pictured inside an injection room at a hospital in Shanghai May 4, 2014. Picture taken May 4, 2014.

The leader of this study Zachary Kaminsky an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, explained that suicide is an increasing yet preventable public health problem, with the simple blood test, they discovered, it would be possible to identify the suicide prone people.

He sincerely hoped that quite a few lives would be saved in the future through their finding.

“According to the report by Science Daily; Kaminsky and his colleagues focused on a genetic mutation in a gene known as SKA2. By looking at brain samples from mentally ill and healthy people, the researchers found that in samples from people who had died by suicide, levels of SKA2 were significantly reduced.”

It was also revealed that higher levels of methylation of the SKA2 were present in subjects who killed themselves. Methylation can be defined as a chemical modification that occurs through addition of methyl groups to the gene.

This increased level of methylation among suicide decedents were further replicated in two independent brain cohorts.

In the second part of the study, scientists tested three different sets of blood samples; the largest one included 325 participants in the Johns Hopkins Center for Prevention Research Study observed similar methylation increases at SKA2 in individuals with suicidal thoughts or attempts.

They came up with a model analysis which successfully predicted participants with more severe risk of suicide with 90 percent accuracy. They identified with 96 percent accuracy whether or not a participant attempted suicide, based on blood test results in the youngest data set.

It is known that SKA2 gene is expressed in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which inhibits negative thoughts and controls impulsive behaviour. In absence of enough SKA2, or if it is in altered form, the stress hormone receptor cannot suppress the release of cortisol throughout the brain. Cortisol release is abnormal in people who attempt or commit suicide, previous studies reported.

Kaminsky believed this test has immense potential applications to make the world a better place.

Larger trials are awaited.

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(Photo: Reuters / Aly Song)
Injectable drugs are pictured inside an injection room at a hospital in Shanghai May 4, 2014. Picture taken May 4, 2014.
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