Today’s Solutions: December 03, 2021

25 percent of individuals will experience a depressive episode in their lives, but current treatment methods largely rely on trial and error to identify an effective combination of medication and therapy.

To offer more effective treatment paths, researchers from Indiana University are developing a promising blood test that uses RNA biomarkers to identify depression severity, risk of severe depression in the future, and risk of future bipolar disorder. The test results can be used to inform tailored medication choices for patients. 

The test technology builds upon previous research into blood biomarkers that track suicidality and pain. The researchers recruited 300 participants and conducted blood tests over four years during both high and low mood states. With this data, the team ruled out what changed in patients’ biomarkers between high and low episodes and identified 26 markers that correlate to depression and bipolar disorder. 

One key marker they uncovered is the correlation between circadian clock genes and seasonal depression. This gene also explains the connection between disrupted sleep and depression. 

The researchers hope this new blood test method will eventually be able to offer targeted mental health resources and save lives. Alexander B. Niculescu, professor of psychiatry at the Indiana University School of Medicine said, “These blood tests can open the door to precise, personalized matching with medications, and objective monitoring of response to treatment.”

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