Worldwide, 1 in 4 people will suffer from a depressive episode in their lifetime. While current diagnosis and treatment approaches are largely trial and error, a breakthrough study by Indiana University (IU) School of Medicine researchers sheds new light on the biological basis of mood disorders, and offers a promising blood test aimed at a precision medicine approach to treatment. Led by Alexander B. Niculescu, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry at IU School of Medicine, the study was published online on April 8, 2021 in Molecular Psychiatry. The work builds on previous research conducted by Dr. Niculescu and his colleagues into blood biomarkers (focused on gene expression from immune cells) that track suicidality, as well as pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and Alzheimer's disease. The ability to identify peripheral gene expression changes that reflect brain activities is likely due to the fact that the brain and immune system have developmental commonalities, marked by shared reactivity and ensuing gene expression patterns, the authors stated. The open-access Molecular Psychiatry article is titled “Precision Medicine for Mood Disorders: Objective Assessment, Risk Prediction, Pharmacogenomics, and Repurposed Drugs” (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41380-021-01061-w). "We have pioneered the area of precision medicine in psychiatry over the last two decades, particularly over the last 10 years. This study represents a current state-of-the-art outcome of our efforts," said Dr. Niculescu. "This is part of our effort to bring psychiatry from the 19th century into the 21st century; to help it become like other contemporary fields such as oncology.
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