Blood Test Might Reveal Suicide Risk

Gene key to our stress response: researchers

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 2, 2014 1:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – Scientists say they have a new way of determining suicide risk, and it's based on genetics—requiring only a blood test. Researchers running postmortem genome scans of brain samples found that the brains of those who'd committed suicide had less of a gene called SKA2, as well as higher levels of methylation, a chemical process that affects the gene's function, the Daily Beast reports. The gene may play a key role in our response to stress, a researcher says.

Researchers applied their findings to blood samples from 325 participants in their study, the Washington Post reports. They sought to predict whether participants had experienced suicidal thoughts, and the results were 80% to 90% accurate. Researchers want to use the findings to help fight military suicide—which occurs at a rate some 50% higher than that of the population as a whole, the Daily Beast notes (though the military reported a decrease in suicides last year). An outside expert points out to the Post, however, that more than just one chemical indicator is needed to assess suicide risk in patients. (The nation's most common suicide spot is taking steps to prevent deaths.)

A researcher holds small test tubes at a lab of the Sao Paulo University Human Genome Research Center.
A researcher holds small test tubes at a lab of the Sao Paulo University Human Genome Research Center.   (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
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