Scientists believe they have identified a new genetic link to severe depression.
The research conducted as part of the Depression Network Study looked at over 800 families with recurrent depression. The researchers conducted a genome-wide analysis and found a significant link between severe depression and a region of DNA on chromosome three.
The region identified, 3p25-26, contains more than 40 genes, several of which are thought to be involved in brain function and could therefore be involved in depression.
Lead author of the study, Dr Gerome Breen from King's College, London said: ‘These findings are truly exciting as possibly for the first time we have found a genetic locus for depression’.
The findings of the study were published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Other research, published in the same issue, from an independent US study also linked the same DNA region to heavy smokers with depression. According to Dr Breen, ‘This appears to be one of the strongest replicated genetic findings in studies for depression’.
The next step will be to identify which, if any, of these individual genes is linked to depression and ultimately whether they could help to explain how it is caused.
‘We are just beginning to make our way through the maze of influences on depression and this is an important step toward understanding what may be happening at the genetic and molecular levels', said Dr Michele Pergadia, who worked on the US study.