Blood markers may identify teenagers with depression

May 1, 2012

Evidence from a pilot study suggests that blood biomarkers obtained from teenagers may identify those at risk for early onset major depressive disorder.

Evidence from a pilot study suggests that blood biomarkers obtained from teenagers may identify those at risk for early onset major depressive disorder (MDD). These genetic markers can also distinguish between major depression and depression combined with anxiety disorder.

The prevalence of MDD in late adolescence and young adulthood has been estimated at 17% to 25%. The discovery of biologic markers for MDD could improve the accuracy of the diagnosis, which can be challenging because of teenagers' fluctuating moods, and may perhaps lead to enhanced individualized care.

Researchers looked at 26 candidate blood biomarkers in 15- to 19-year-olds, 14 of whom had MDD and 14 of whom had no depressive disorder. They found differences in the expression of 11 genes that differentiated those with MDD from those without.

Teenagers with depression who remain untreated have a higher risk of substance abuse, physical illness, suicide, and social maladjustment.

Pajer K, Andrus BM, Gardner W, et al. Discovery of blood transcriptomic markers for depression in animal models and pilot validation in subjects with early-onset major depression. Transl Psychiatry. 2012;2:e101.