A Breakthrough in Diagnosing Depression: The First Blood Test to Predict the Illness

ABC News, Time Magazine, Huffington Post

Results of research by a team of researchers at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago were published in Translational Psychiatry on April 17th, showing that a blood test can diagnose depression in teens. This marks the development of a biologically-based diagnostic tool for mental illness, similar to diagnostic tools available for most physical illnesses. Currently, a depression diagnosis in teens relies on a patient’s willingness and capacity to accurately report symptoms and their physician’s subjective observations. A more objective diagnostic tool may lead to earlier diagnoses, thus potentially preventing other risk factors of teen depression including substance abuse, a range of physical illnesses and suicide.

NARSAD Grantee, Adelaide Robb of the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. comments with cautious optimism in the article: “Taking something from an animal model and saying it means something in people is making a big leap. A finding among 14 is not the same as saying something is present in 1,000 people.” She continues by acknowledging that this is a solid first step that gives researchers an idea of where to look for further blood-test development. “If we could identify several subtypes of depression, we could, hopefully, target treatments for subsections of people with certain abnormal neurochemicals,” she says.

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Recovery Story:

I Thought Maybe This Was Normal
- Meet Owen, an 18-year-old who has been battling depression and bipolar disorder since he was eleven. Today, Owen is enrolled at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and his mental illness is stabilized thanks to research and hope.

Article comments

Excellent job!

In the words of the great Doctor: "It is alive!" :) Another may say "science".

I am just trying to say that I believe future generations will say about psychology and psychiatry what Dr. Feynman said about organic chemistry. He was amazed that the giants prior to spectroscopy, etc were capable of correctly predicting structure and outcome.

As a victim who has a degree in chemical engineering and biological sciences but has been sidelined because of my illness, I applaud all those responsible. Remember, that includes everyone! :)

Accurately diagnosing depression can be complicated since many psychological, emotional and even some physical disorders can overlap with or mimic the real symptoms of depression. If you suspect that you are struggling with real depression, the first best thing to do is to set up an appointment with your family doctor to undergo a complete physical.

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Please note that researchers cannot give specific recommendations or advice about treatment; diagnosis and treatment are complex and highly individualized processes that require comprehensive face-to- face assessment. Please visit our "Ask an Expert" section to see a list of Q & A with NARSAD Grantees.
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