Scientists Develop Pioneering Biomarker To Predict Depression and Bipolar Disorder
Researchers from Australia recently developed and validated a world-pioneering test claiming to exactly gauge brain protein levels identified to be linked to depression and bipolar disorder.
The new study proposes that this test could provide doctors with an objective diagnostic mechanism to examine patients for various mood disorders.
A New Atlas report said that an extensive study in recent years has «circled around a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF.»
This essential protein plays a vital role in reloading brain cells and stimulating healthy «neural functions and low levels of it» associated with certain conditions, including Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia, and mood disorders.
Some studies have proposed that one way exercise is exerting beneficial impacts on the brain is by enhancing the BDNF levels.
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(Photo : Enrique Meseguer on Pixabay)
Researchers from Australia have recently developed and validated a world-pioneering test that is claimed to exactly gauge a brain protein levels identified to be linked to depression and bipolar disorder.
In general, when scientists are referring to BDNF, they are pertaining to a specific mature form of the mBDNF protein.
Nevertheless, as indicated in the study, the protein can exhibit two other forms which include the BDNF's precursor «referred to as proBDNF, and the prodomain of BDNF.»
Furthermore, studies have specified these different BDNF forms have different biological functions. In some circumstances, the dissimilarities between mBDNF and the two other forms are basically contradicting and thus, it is essential the current tests can differentiate these types of protein.
Unfortunately, according to the said report, present «commercial assay kits» are unable to separate the BDNF types accurately.
New Assay Kit Developed
These Australian scientists have now developed a new assay kit that, for the first time, accurately determine the types of BDNF.
According to one of the scientists working on this new research, Xin-Fu Zhou, «as mature BDNF and proBDNF» are performing different activities, working in contrast to each other, it is vital that we could differentiate the two proteins and identify «changes in their levels.»
The currently-existing BDNF ELISA, enzyme-associated immunosorbent assay kits, are said to be not non-specific and can cross-reaction with each other. This world-pioneer kit the researchers have developed comprises an exact 80- to 83-percent rate.
The Australian researchers' latest work, which the Journal of Psychiatric Research recently published, set out to try the new BDNF assay and especially gauge the levels of mBDNF in broad cohort comprising subject suffering from depressive disorder, bipolar disorder or any history or background of suicidal attempt.
The study discovered that low mBDF levels did not associate with both clinical depression and bipolar disorder, while severe symptoms of depression were associated with lower mBDNF levels compared to subjects who had moderate symptoms.
Interestingly, mBDNF levels in the suicide group were found «not unusually low.» The mBDNF levels of the group were actually the same as those observed in healthy control subjects.
Discussing this apparently conflicting result the researchers proposed the «etiology of suicide» may be more varied compared to the previously expected.
More so, more detailed longitudinal studies will be needed to tease out the link between suicide and levels of mBDNF.
Another convincing finding in this new research is that, higher mBDNF levels were identified in major depressive order or MDD subjects who are presently taking antidepressants, compared to the MDD subjects who are not taking the said medications.
This interestingly proposes testing for acute rises to levels of mBDNF may be a helpful way to measure how a patient is responding to a given antidepressant therapy.
Although this study is still said to be preliminary, Zhou proposed a particular «mBDNF blood level could serve as an objective diagnostic tool for doctors.»
In concurrence with a clinical test, the scientist said, levels of mBDNF below 12.4 ng/ml may be a diagnostic inception to categorize both bipolar disorder and MDD.
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IU researchers develop blood test for depression, bipolar disorder
INDIANAPOLIS — 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 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 Dr. Alexander B. Niculescu, professor of psychiatry at the IU School of Medicine, the study was published today in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. The work builds on previous research conducted by Niculescu and his colleagues into blood biomarkers that track suicidality as well as pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer's disease.
«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,» Niculescu said.
«This is part of our effort to bring psychiatry from the 19th century into the 21st century, to help it become other contemporary fields such as oncology. Ultimately, the mission is to save and improve lives.»
The study describes how the team developed a blood test, composed of RNA biomarkers, that can distinguish how severe a patient's depression is, their risk of severe depression in the future and their risk of future bipolar disorder, or manic-depressive illness. The test also informs tailored medication choices for patients.
This comprehensive study took place over four years, with over 300 participants recruited primarily from the patient population at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis. The team used a careful four-step approach of discovery, prioritization, validation and testing.
First, the participants were followed over time, with researchers observing them in both high and low mood states. Each time, the researchers recorded what changed in terms of the biomarkers in their blood between the highs and lows.
Next, Niculescu's team used large databases developed from all previous studies in the field to cross-validate and prioritize their findings.
From here, researchers validated the top 26 candidate biomarkers in independent cohorts of people with clinically severe depression or mania.
Last, the biomarkers were tested in additional independent cohorts to determine how strong they were at predicting who is ill, and who will become ill in the future.
From this approach, researchers were able to demonstrate how to match patients with medications — even finding a new potential medication to treat depression.
«Through this work, we wanted to develop blood tests for depression and for bipolar disorder, to distinguish between the two and to match people to the right treatments,» Niculescu said.
«Blood biomarkers are emerging as important tools in disorders where subjective self-report by an individual, or a clinical impression of a health care professional, are not always reliable.
These blood tests can open the door to precise, personalized matching with medications, and objective monitoring of response to treatment.»
In addition to the diagnostic and therapeutic advances discovered in their latest study, Niculescu's team found that mood disorders are underlined by circadian clock genes — the genes that regulate seasonal, day-night and sleep-wake cycles.
«That explains why some patients get worse with seasonal changes, and the sleep alterations that occur in mood disorders,» Niculescu said.
According to Niculescu, the work done by his team has opened the door for their findings to be translated into clinical practice, as well as help with new drug development.
Focusing on collaboration with pharmaceutical companies and other doctors in a push to start applying some of their tools and discoveries in real-world scenarios, Niculescu said he believes the work being done by his team is vital in improving the quality of life for countless patients.
«Blood biomarkers offer real-world clinical practice advantages.
The brain cannot be easily biopsied in live individuals, so we've worked hard over the years to identify blood biomarkers for neuropsychiatric disorders,» Niculescu said.
«Given the fact that 1 in 4 people will have a clinical mood disorder episode in their lifetime, the need for and importance of efforts such as ours cannot be overstated.»
This research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
About IU School of Medicine
The Indiana University School of Medicine is the largest medical school in the U.S. and is annually ranked among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers high-quality medical education, access to leading medical research and rich campus life in nine Indiana cities, including rural and urban locations consistently recognized for livability.
About IU Research
IU's world-class researchers have driven innovation and creative initiatives that matter for 200 years.
From curing testicular cancer to collaborating with NASA to search for life on Mars, IU has earned its reputation as a world-class research institution.
Supported by $854 million last year from our partners, IU researchers are building collaborations and uncovering new solutions that improve lives in Indiana and around the globe.