Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Gene found to increase chance of depression

We continue to learn more about the biological mechanisms behind psychological disorders. Recently, scientists have found a gene that is able to increase the chance of developing a depression. While involvement of genetics was already predicted, it is one of the first genes that is proven to be affecting the chance of obtaining a depression.

The gene, discovered by scientists from Texas Biomedical Research Institute, is dubbed RNF123. They derived their data from clinical studies, in an effort to obtain so-called 'risk genes'. That also means we currently do not quite know what the exact function of RNF123 is. More research is required to uncover its biological mechanism. We do know it predominantly functions in the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved with learning and memory, which was already found to be affected in depression.

Depression and genetics
The findings are proof that genes play a role in developing depression, something that was already concluded from previous studies. When researchers studied identical twins, they found that when one of them is suffering from depression, the second one is much more likely to develop a depression as well. It has also been shown that risk of developing depression is inheritable.

In the coming years, we will likely learn more about how RNF123 affects our brain to develop this severe mood disorder. Additionally, we will probably find more genes, and their biological mechanisms, to unravel how depression actually works and what triggers its onset. Luckily, we are also making progress with treatment. Recently, previously untreatable patients with depression were largely cured by electrically stimulating their brain, a technique that has seen much success in the last couple of years.

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