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May 22, 2022

Blood test can reveal suicide risk, Romanian scientist discovers

A team led by Romanian Prof. Alexander Niculescu from Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis has found that enhanced expression of four genes can indicate a person’s inclination to commit suicide. Their study was recently published in the Molecular Psychiatry journal.
The researchers found the levels of certain molecules in the blood differed when people with bipolar disorder were having suicidal thoughts, and they were able to confirm their findings in the bodies of men who had recently committed suicide.
“We found some blood biomarkers, some changes in molecules in the blood, that are associated with having a high suicidal risk, and then we validated those changes in blood from suicide completers,” said Dr. Niculescu , associate professor of psychiatry and medical neuroscience at the Indiana University School of Medicine.
By examining the men’s blood, the researchers found a number of molecules that appeared to correlate with those suicidal thoughts. The researchers compared their findings with the molecule levels in the blood from the bodies of nine men who had recently committed suicide, and had been matched for age, and they were able to narrow down the number of molecules.
Finally, the researchers compared their blood sample findings to those from groups of the 42 men with bipolar disorder and 46 with schizophrenia, to see if the levels of these biomarkers corresponded with suicidal tendencies.
Ultimately, the researchers found six molecules that appeared to correlate with suicidal thoughts and actions. However, Niculescu noted the findings need to be confirmed in a wider cohort that includes women and non-Caucasian men.
It remains unclear why these particular molecules would have an impact on suicide, but, Niculescu said, some of them are involved in inflammation and cell death, so it may be that they affect people under extreme stress in a large way.
One of the reasons the research was conducted, said Niculescu, who also serves as a staff psychiatrist at the Indianapolis VA Medical Center, is that suicide has had a particular impact on members of the military, where it has claimed more active military members than the combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With the stigma attached to suicide, “We needed something else besides what people tell us to identify who’s at high risk,” Niculescu said, quoted by livescience.com.

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