Researchers have discovered an approach to identify blood biomarkers that could predict the risk of suicide in patients with depression, bringing them one step closer to developing a potential blood test for use on future patients thanks to a study by researchers at the University of California–Irvine (UCI) and Pritzker Research Consortium.
Suicides have increased to nearly 50,000 deaths yearly in the United States and around 800,000 total globally, according to the team’s research now published in Translational Psychiatry, a peer-reviewed medical journal launched in 2011. The 2022 study further shows clinical depression as the most common diagnosis among suicides.
Even more troubling is that in the United States alone, suicide rates have increased by more than 35 percent over the last 20 years, the study says, making it the tenth leading cause of death.
“Identifying those at the highest risk is a pressing challenge,” researchers note in the literature, adding that “suicide prevention strategies and current medications, although helpful, have not stemmed the increase in self-inflicted deaths.”
As such, researchers launched an investigation to see if a blood biomarker signature for depression could be identified in post-mortem patients who took their own lives, studying both brain and blood cells. Their efforts were successful.
In their research, scientists found that non-preserved blood can be used to discover a gene that, when expressed or activated, makes people at a higher risk of suicide.
Not only can this discovery help providers pinpoint suicidal individuals, the results can also help researchers understand molecular changes in suicide victims, which may be of great use in treating the illness moving forward.
“That is so cool, I didn’t even know you could test for something like that … in someone’s blood,” a source diagnosed with depression, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Epoch Times. “I wish that test was already available when I was in high school.”
The study uses a novel gene expression approach—a way to look for clusters of genes encoded in our DNA that make people at higher risk for certain conditions—in this case the genetic code specific to putting people at risk of suicidal tendencies.
Research further shows that many individuals do not disclose suicidal intentions despite frequent contact with health care professionals and that an estimated 30 percent of suicides visit a healthcare provider within a month of taking their lives.
As such, once developed this blood test can be administered during such medical visits, potentially helping to identify high-risk individuals before it’s too late.
“These blood biomarkers are an important step toward developing blood tests to identify patients with imminent risk of ending their lives,” said corresponding author Dr. Adolfo Sequeira, associate researcher in the Department of Psychiatry & Human Behavior at the UCI School of Medicine in a statement.