A new blood test may make it easier for physicians to detect the signs of depression in adults. It’s hoped the test could help medical professionals identify people who may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy and measure the results of such treatment.
The test reportedly examines the levels of nine genetic indicators, or RNA markers, found in the blood. Physicians could learn about a patient’s depression by comparing these indicators with RNA markers in a person who is not showing signs of depression.
The test has already been carried out by researchers funded by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. Researchers examined 32 adults diagnosed with depression and 32 adults who had not received such a diagnosis. The participants’ ages ranged from 21 to 79.
Researchers found that they could see visible differences in RNA markers before and after a person dealing with depression underwent therapy.
The researchers behind the study have now published their work in the online journal Translational Psychiatry. Eva Redei, the team’s lead researcher and a psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor at Northwestern University, says she hopes it marks an important step towards helping doctors identify cases of depression.
“If a patient is not able or willing to communicate with the doctor, [a depression] diagnosis is difficult to make,” Redei said. “If the blood test is positive, that would alert the doctor.”
Additionally, Redei says the test could help doctors understand if treatment is having a real impact on a patient’s depression. “This is the first time that we can predict a response to psychotherapy,” Redei added.