Towns
Scientists take step toward blood test for suicide
Publish Date: Aug 01, 2014
Scientists take step toward blood test for suicide
  • mail
  • img
newvision

US scientists have identified a gene mutation that appears to be common in people who attempt or commit suicide, a finding that could lead to a blood test to predict risk.

The discovery is based on a small study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland and was published on Wednesday in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

"We have no consistent way to predict those who are at increased risk of killing themselves," said lead author Zachary Kaminsky, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

"With a test like ours, we may be able to stem suicide rates by identifying those people and intervening early enough to head off a catastrophe."

Such a test is years away from being widely available to the public.

For now, researchers say they have found a chemical change in a single gene, called SKA2, which is linked to how the brain responds to stress hormones.

This gene "plays a significant role in turning what might otherwise be an unremarkable reaction to the strain of everyday life into suicidal thoughts and behaviors," said the study.

Researchers found it by examining brain samples from people who had killed themselves, and found that levels of SKA2 were significantly reduced compared to healthy people.

They also tested blood samples from 325 people in a prevention study at JHU and found that changes in the gene could predict with 80 percent certainty those who were experiencing suicidal thoughts or who had attempted suicide.

Among certain groups, the accuracy of the test was even higher.

"Those with more severe risk of suicide were predicted with 90 percent accuracy," said the study.

"In the youngest data set, they were able to identify with 96 percent accuracy whether or not a participant had attempted suicide, based on blood test results."

The SKA2 gene works to inhibit negative thoughts and control impulsive actions. When there isn't enough of it, or it is altered, the brain releases abnormal levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.

Previous studies have shown that people who try to kill themselves, or who commit suicide, have an abnormal cortisol release.

Kaminsky said more research is needed to determine if a blood test could predict suicide in a larger group of people.AFP
 

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
New Vision journalists scoop awards
Three Vision Group journalists have scooped health reporting awards for promoting immunization. The awards were given by the Ministry of Health for the year 2013/14....
8 million Ugandan children live in abject poverty
Eight million out of the 20 million children in Uganda are languishing in abject poverty, UNICEF has said....
Muhoozi visits UPDF in Somalia
The UPDF Special Forces Commander Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba has commended the Ugandan and Somali troops for decisive operation against the Al-Shabaab....
Global African Investment Summit kicks off in London
President Yoweri Museveni has addressed the Global African Investment Summit taking place in the British capital, London....
Reeva Steenkamp
Oscar Pistorius "ruined our whole family" when he killed Reeva Steenkamp, a South African court heard Wednesday....
Israeli parlaiment chief visits
The Israeli Parliament is to partner with the Ugandan legislature to cooperate in areas of research, training and development of agriculture....
Should diplomatic passports issued to ex-govt workers be with drawn?
Yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter