Gene for Depression Discovered

Depression may run in the family. After surveying the entire human genome, University of Pittsburg researchers have found a group of genes that makes some people--women more than men--susceptible to depression. Additionally, people with these genes appear to have shorter lifespans.

Although many scientists disagree, depression is between 40 and 70 percent genetic, asserts George Zubenko, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. He found 19 loci--small regions on the chromosomes where genes reside--is associated with depressive disorders. Loci can be sex-specific, and more of these depressive loci were found in women's genomes. Zubenko notes that this genetic difference may help explain, at least partially, why more women suffer depression than men. Only one loci was unique to men.

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Families with these genetic patterns lived eight years shorter than average. Over 40 percent of those in the survey died before the age of 65. Most of these early deaths came from heart disease, cancer and stroke.

Eighty-one families participated in the survey. Each had a family member with an early-onset, major depressive disorder. This form of depression is known to run in families.

Zubenko's findings are an extension of his previous research that linked a gene known as CREB1 to depression. The CREB1 gene appears to interact with the 19 loci found the current study. Further research may help researchers develop a new genetically-focused treatment of the disease. The study was published July in the American Journal of Medical Genetics.

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