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Researchers Identify Biomarkers that could Predict Suicide Risk

Aug 20, 2013 10:07 AM EDT
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Researchers from Indiana University School of Medicine have now found RNA biomarkers in blood that can reveal the risk of being suicidal in a person.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine who found high levels of the RNA biomarkers in blood of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder were more susceptible to committing suicide.

"Suicide is a big problem in psychiatry. It's a big problem in the civilian realm, it's a big problem in the military realm and there are no objective markers," said Dr. Niculescu, director of the Laboratory of Neurophenomics at the Institute of Psychiatric Research at the IU School of Medicine.

"There are people who will not reveal they are having suicidal thoughts when you ask them, who then commit it and there's nothing you can do about it. We need better ways to identify, intervene and prevent these tragic cases," he added.

The data for the study was collected over a three-year period during which researchers followed a large group of people who were diagnosed with bipolar disorders. Depression along with other mental disorders raises the risk for suicide.

They conducted a variety of tests on people who shifted from no suicidal thoughts to extreme suicidal ideation. They found specific genetic markers that differed in states of "low suicide ideation" and "high suicide ideation" through a system of genetic analysis called Convergent Functional Genomics. The system gave the researchers the most probable genetic markers associated with suicide ideation.

Through this system, researchers identified a genetic marker called SAT1 and other related markers that were co-related with high suicide risk.

Next, researchers analyzed blood samples from local coroner's office and found that people who committed suicide had elevated levels of the same ten genetic markers.

Researchers also conducted blood test on another set of people and predicted their risk of hospitalization due to suicide attempts.

"This suggests that these markers reflect more than just a current state of high risk, but could be trait markers that correlate with long term risk," said Dr. Niculescu.

This research focused on blood samples derived from male participants who had bipolar disorder. Next part of the research would include female participants.

The study is published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. In 2009, about 37,000 people in the U.S. died by suicide.

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