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Could depression soon be diagnosed through a blood test?

A breakthrough in research in the US suggests that depression could soon by diagnosed via a blood test.

Image: Scientist/Shutterstock

SCIENTISTS IN AMERICA have developed a blood test that could potentially diagnose depression.

Researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago have made a breakthrough in creating what they say is the “first objective, scientific diagnosis for depression”.

The study was conducted on 32 patients, aged 21 to 79, who had been independently diagnosed as depressed, and 32 non-depressed people in the same age range.

Some of the patients had been on long-term antidepressants but were still depressed.

The test identifies depression by measuring the levels of nine RNA blood markers that interpret the DNA genetic code and carry out its instructions. It also predicts who will benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy based on the behavior of some of the markers.

Northwestern said that after 18 weeks of therapy (face-to-face and over the phone), the changed levels of certain markers could differentiate patients who had responded positively and were no longer depressed from patients who remained depressed.

This is the first biological indicator of the success of cognitive behavioral therapy, the study authors have said.

More research needed

Eva Redei, one of the researchers who worked on the project, said that the results indicate “you can have a blood-based laboratory test for depression, providing a scientific diagnosis in the same way someone is diagnosed with high blood pressure or high cholesterol”.

This test brings mental health diagnosis into the 21st century and offers the first personalised medicine approach to people suffering from depression.

As the results are preliminary, Redei now plans to test a larger number of people. She also wants wants to see if the test can differentiate between depression and bipolar disorder.

The search for a biological diagnostic test for depression has been ongoing for decades.

Read: Could you help someone who is experiencing depression?

Read: Myths v Facts on suicide: a misunderstood issue that claims 800,000 lives each year

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Órla Ryan

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