Blood Test Developed to Diagnose Depression

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Researchers have developed a blood test that is able to diagnose depression in adults, a breakthrough that could help clinicians avoid diagnosing the condition based on patient-reported symptoms alone.

Researchers at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, found that levels of nine RNA blood markers in 32 patients, aged between 21 to 79 years old, that were diagnosed with depression after clinical interviews were significantly different than levels in 32 healthy patients in the same age group.

Also, after 18 weeks of psychotherapy, there were changes in levels of the markers between those who had responded well to therapy and those who didn’t, the researchers reported in Translation Psychology. This is the first time a biomarker has been used to measure the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy, they added.

The test may also allow for more personalized treatment of depression.

“We know [a combination of psychotherapy and drug therapy is] more effective than either alone but maybe by combining therapies we are using a scattershot approach,” said David Mohr, PhD, director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies at Feinberg and study author. “Having a blood test would allow us to better target treatment to individuals.” 

Eva Redei, PhD, a researcher professor at Feinberg and study author, said that the next step is to examine the test in a larger population, as well as analyze whether the test can differentiate between major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder.

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Blood Test Developed to Diagnose Depression

Diagnosing depression can be a difficult task, currently relying on patients reporting symptoms — something those suffering depression don't always do — and doctors correctly interpreting them — which isn't easy as the symptoms are non-specific. Now researchers have developed a blood test to diagnose depression in adults, providing the first objective, scientific diagnosis for the condition.

Earlier this year, a team from the University of Vienna revealed that measuring the levels of serotonin in the blood showed promise for potentially diagnosing depression through a blood test. And in 2012, Eva Redei, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine developed a blood test to diagnose depression in adolescents that involved looking at 26 genetic blood markers.
 

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