Written by Alex Crees
Scientists say they have developed the first blood test to diagnose major depression in teenagers. The test is also able to differentiate between at least two subtypes of depression: major depression and major depression combined with anxiety disorder.
Currently, doctors and psychiatrists diagnose depression solely by relying on the patient to recount his or her own symptoms. Then, the doctor must interpret the patient’s descriptions to decide whether or not the patient is depressed.
However, Northwestern University researchers say a new blood test is able to identify certain ‘gene expression markers’ that can objectively diagnose the depression in teenagers.
“For someone who is depressed, basically every aspect of his or her cognition, perception, mood and ability to interact socially is somewhat impaired,” lead researcher Dr. Eva Redei, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told FoxNews.com. “At the moment, diagnosis relies on a structured interview between the doctor and patient - which is not necessarily an objective description of what’s happening.”
Redei said she doesn’t expect the test will eliminate the doctor/patient interviews, but rather, act as a supplement to them.
“[This test] is not to replace psychiatrists’ interviews or their knowledge in that regard, just like a blood glucose test to diagnose diabetes doesn’t replace an endocrinologist,” Redei added. “It merely helps to inform. The idea is to give the same chance to depressed patients – of which there are many – which we are giving to other patients for hypertension, diabetes, etc.”
The test, developed over a period of more than 10 years, first identified 26 potential markers (called messenger RNA) for depression based on animal studies of severely depressed and anxious rats.
Further research in humans found that 11 of those markers could be used to distinguish between depressed and non-depressed patients. The levels of the 11 markers were typically below average range in the depressed patients.