Scientists at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute and Yale University have identified a new target area in the human genome that appears to harbor genes with a major role in the onset of depression. Using the power of Texas Biomed’s AT&T Genomics Computing Center (GCC), the researchers found the region by devising a new method for analyzing thousands of potential risk factors for this complex disease, a process that led them to a new biomarker that may be helpful in identifying people at risk for major depression. “We were searching for things in psychiatric disease that are the equivalent of what cholesterol is to heart disease,” said Dr. John Blangero, director of the GCC and a principal investigator in the study. “We wanted to find things that can be measured in everybody and that can tell you something about risk for major depression.” The study was directed by Dr. Blangero and Dr. David Glahn, of Yale University. It was published online on October 7, 2011 in the journal Biological Psychiatry and supported by the National Institutes of Health. Major depressive disorder is one of the most common and most costly mental illnesses. Studies have estimated that up to 17 percent of Americans will suffer depression at some point in their lives. The disorder has proven to be a tough challenge for geneticists. Despite strong evidence that people can inherit a susceptibility to major depression, years of study have failed to locate any of the key genes that underlie the illness. In this study, the scientists used blood samples from 1,122 people enrolled in the Genetics of Brain Structure and Function Study, a large family study that involves people from 40 extended Mexican American families in the San Antonio area. Dr.
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