Blood test could detect depression in teenagers
April 17, 2012 1:32PM
Updated: April 17, 2012 1:32PM
A blood test has been developed that detects major depression in teenagers and could lead to individualized treatment for patients, according to a Northwestern University study.
The study included 28 teens between the ages of 15 and 19, with half of the group having major depression that had not been clinically treated, and the other half being non-depressed, according to release from Northwestern. The teens were matched by sex and race.
It was discovered that 11 of the 26 genetic blood markers used to test the teenagers’ blood could differentiate between depressed and non-depressed adolescents, the release said.
“These 11 genes are probably the tip of the iceberg because depression is a complex illness,” Eva Redei, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine and lead investigator, said in the release. “But it’s an entree into a much bigger phenomenon that has to be explored. It clearly indicates we can diagnose from blood and create a blood diagnosis test for depression.”
Eighteen of the 26 genetic blood markers distinguished between teens with only major depression and those with major depression and anxiety disorder, the release said. It is the first evidence that subtypes of depression can be identified from blood, raising the hope that care can be tailored to different types of depression.
Diagnosing teens is a serious concern because they are highly vulnerable to depression and difficult to accurately diagnose due to normal mood changes caused by their age, the release said.
“The estimated rates of major depressive disorder jump from 2 to 4 percent in pre-adolescent children to 10 to 20 percent by late adolescence,” according to the release. “Early onset of major depression in teens has a poorer prognosis than when it starts in adulthood. Untreated teens with this disease experience increases in substance abuse, social maladjustment, physical illness and suicide. Their normal development is derailed, and the disease persists into adulthood.”
None of the teens diagnosed with depression opted for treatment, which indicates the challenge faced in working with depressed teenagers, the release said.
“Everybody, including parents, are wary of treatment, and there remains a social stigma around depression, which in the peer-pressured world of teenagers is even more devastating,” Redei said. “Once you can objectively diagnose depression as you would hypertension or diabetes, the stigma will likely disappear.”