Monday, October 10, 2011

Gene found to be involved with suicidal behaviour

A gene that codes for the protein brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is linked with suicide, a new study suggests. People that have a mutated BDNF gene, that causes decreased functionality of the corresponding protein, are found to have an higher incidence of suicidal behaviour compared to those who have proper functioning BDNF. By pooling 12 studies together, scientists investigated the behaviour of a total of 3352 people.

In the study, people who had attempted suicide were compared with those who had not. The scientists had access to genetic data of everyone involved. With the help of a lot of statistics, they found a link between badly functioning BDNF and incidence of suicidal behavior. The dysfunctional BDNF differs by one amino acid building block in the chain that makes up the protein.

The name already gave it away, but BDNF is a neurotrophic factor. That means it stimulates the growth, survival and differentiation of neurons, the cells that make up the nervous system and the brain. BDNF is also involved with long-term memory. The protein has similar functionality to other neurotrophic growth factors, but its link to suicidal behaviour appears to be unique.

They also found that 90 percent of the people that tried to commit suicide, had a history of mental disorders. While the researchers did not hint at the underlying mechanism for BDNF's effect on influencing suicidal behaviour, it is possible that there is also a link with other mental diseases. By discovering the mechanism behind BDNF and suicide, we might be able to develop new therapies to cure certain forms of suicidal behaviour and mental diseases. A drug that restores BDNF to full functionality would be an obvious strategy.

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