HEALTH

Australians Researchers Looking To Identify Genes Linked To Depression

More than 20,000 Australians could be part of a landmark study.

04/04/2017 6:57 PM AEST | Updated 04/04/2017 8:10 PM AEST
Genetics of Depression
The research will be part of the world's largest genetic study into depression to date.

Australian researchers are looking for more than 20,000 adults to be part of a landmark study that could identify genetic markers that put people at a higher risk of suffering from depression at some point in their lives.

Researchers from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane will lead The Australian Genetics of Depression Study as part of a global collaboration designed to understanding more about depression and determining why some people are susceptible to it while others may not be.

As of April 400 volunteers, who were all required to have been over the age of 18, have been recruited to be part of the study. As part of the call-out, researchers have said potential participants should have been treated for clinical depression in the past or are currently being treated for it.

"The aim of the study is to detect genetic factors that contribute to clinical depression and its treatment," a description of the project reads.

"We also hope this research will allow us to identify genetic factors that influence why various treatments for clinical depression are successful for some people, but not others."

While there is no study to date that has identified the exact genes in a person that can cause depression, the study, which will be led by Head of the Genetic Epidemiology group at QIMR Berghofer Professor Nick Martin, will also look to find out more about why some individuals who suffer from the mental illness respond better to anti-depressant medications than others.

For potential participants, the study requires a survey to be completed before particular volunteers picked by researchers then need to submit a saliva DNA sample to generate their genetic code, known as a "genome-wide association scan" (GWAS).

"Identification of the genes that predispose individuals to clinical depression could revolutionise future research into causes, treatment and prevention of the illness," the study website said.

"AGD researchers will analyse biological (saliva) samples to investigate and identify specific genes that may be associated with clinical depression.

"The GWAS will allow researchers to look for genetic similarities and differences to determine why some people experience clinical depression, while others do not, why some people living with clinical depression respond to certain treatments, while others do not, and why some people experience side effects, while others do not."

The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that by 2020, clinical depression will impose the second highest burden of any disease in Australia and other advanced countries, according to the study's website. In February, the WHO reported that depression is also now the leading cause of disability worldwide.

Mental health support service group BeyondBlue has said that 45 percent of Australians will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, with one million Aussies suffering from depression in any one year.

In March, Australian researchers linked for the first time what underpins male stoicism with suicidal thinking. A large-scale empirical study showed those men with a strong sense of self-reliance, a trait traditionally associated with maleness, are at a greater risk of taking their own lives.

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