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Depression study pinpoints genes that may trigger the condition

April 2018: Congratulations to CCBS scientists David Howard, Andrew McIntosh and colleagues, who have identified nearly 80 genes that may be involved in depression.

The team identified the genes by DNA screening of 300,000 people from UK Biobank – a research resource containing health and genetic information for half a million people. They then confirmed their findings by examining anonymised data held by the personal genetics and research company 23andMe, used with the donors’ consent.

Some of the pinpointed genes are known to be involved in the function of synapses.

Depression affects one in five people in the UK every year and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Life events – such as trauma or stress – can contribute to its onset, but it is not clear why some people are more likely to develop the condition than others.

The study, published in Nature Communications, was funded by the Wellcome Trust as part of Stratifying Resilience and Depression Longitudinally, a £4.7 million project to better understand the condition.

Depression is a common and often severe condition that affects millions of people worldwide. These new findings help us better understand the causes of depression and show how the UK Biobank study and big data research has helped advance mental health research.

We hope that the UK’s growing health data research capacity will help us to make major advances in our understanding of depression in coming years.

Professor Andrew McIntoshChair of Biological Psychiatry, Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences

This study identifies genes that potentially increase our risk of depression, adding to the evidence that it is partly a genetic disorder. The findings also provide new clues to the causes of depression and we hope it will narrow down the search for therapies that could help people living with the condition.

Dr David HowardPostdoctoral researcher in the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences and lead author of the study

Related links

Read the publication in Nature Communications: Genome-wide association study of depression phenotypes in UK Biobank identifies variants in excitatory synaptic pathways.  doi:10.1038/s41467-018-03819-3

Professor Andrew McIntosh profile

Psychiatric disorders research at the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences

Biobanking & disease registers research at the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences

Complex trait genetics research at the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences