‘Biological signal’ of suicide risk found in blood
Researchers have discovered a series of biomarkers (RNA type) in human blood that could be used to develop a test that would predict the suicidal risk of each individual.
An article published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, reveals the results of a three year medical trial, realised on a large group of male patients from four cohort study groups. All patients that took part at the study were previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
The clinical study was conducted by the psychiatrist and researchers from the School of Medicine, Indiana University, which interviewed the patients involved in the focus group. The primary evaluation had been followed by up to three testing visits, when blood samples were taken from the patients, each three and six months. The testing visits consisted in psychiatric evaluation of each patient, followed of grading them using the “Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression-17”, a scale that includes a rating of suicidal ideation, used to measure the level of suicidal feeling or predisposition. The blood samples were analysed and the results varied between no su icidal thoughts at all, to strong suicidal ideation. The results of the trial revealed high genes differences between the patients with no, or low suicidal thoughts and the ones with high states of suicidal feelings.
SAT1, the suicide biomarker
The SAT1 marker was found as a strong differential biological signal associated with suicidal thoughts. To support their findings, the researchers analysed blood samples from the suicide victims, which revealed that the same biomarker was found at very high concentrations. Analysing simultaneously two other groups of patients, it had been demonstrated that the same specific biomarkers were linked to future hospitalisation related to suicide, or other suicidal attempt that took place after before the trial. Dr. Alexander Niculescu, associate professor of psychiatry and medical neuroscience at the Indiana University, talks more about the SD1 clinical trial and the global concerns about the consequences of suicide in this UI School of Medicine YouTube film.
‘Further research needed’ on females
Because the subjects of the study were only men, the researchers want to expand the same clinical trial on female patients, to spot the gender differences. Also, it is predicted that they will soon conduct extensive studies, on the global population. Due to different compartmental types, the scientists want to enlarge the range of the studies on groups characterized by more impulsive type of patients or the ones that have more pronounced suicidal feelings.
Tests of the future
Suicide is a preventable cause of death. However, worldwide, over a million lives a year are lost to suicide. The psychiatrist involved in monitoring the study, are very confident that these suicide biomarkers will soon be used in the blood tests of the future, to determine the suicide risk of each patient. The researchers hope that future blood test will involve checking these biomarkers, which along with neuropsychological tests and socio-demographic checklists, will help identify the patients with elevated risk of suicide and lead to prevention of this phenomenon and life savings.