Siberian scientists discover the depression gene in Europeans

This pioneering research opens new possibilities for developing medicine and therapy for psychological disorders. In their search for the `depression gene,' Siberian scientists developed software that can be used to study other illnesses. It has been uploaded for public use.
depression
Scientists from the Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Novosibirsk discovered a gene that leads to the development of depression in Europeans. Source: Getty Images

According to the World Health Organization, about 350 million people suffer from depression, and about 30-40 percent of these become ill due to genetic factors. Scientists from the Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Novosibirsk discovered a gene that leads to the development of depression in Europeans.

The gene is called NKPDI. The study used genetic material from Europeans, and experts said that Mongoloids, that is, Asians, and Negroids, people with black color skin, do not have this gene. The gene responsible for their depression still has to be found.

Scientists hope that this discovery will help create medicine for this common illness. The genetic analysis methods for this study were developed in the Siberian institute.

A gene to control depression

When looking for the "depression gene" the Siberian researchers analyzed genetic information from more than 2,000 people that was provided by the Dutch Erasmus Center in Rotterdam, which studies depression.

"We did not look at each genetic variation separately, as it is usually done in such studies," said the research project's director, Tatyana Aksenovich. "Instead, we took the gene in its entirety and looked only at those genetic variations that change the structure of the corresponding protein. One of our other peculiarities is that we focused on the so-called depression symptoms and not on the confirmed diagnosis."

In order to identify the gene that participates in controlling depression, Nadezhda Belonogova developed the FREGAT program. It includes both "regional association analysis" methods that analyze the gene in its entirety, and new methods developed in the research process.

The Siberian scientists say that thanks to this program, the information is processed very quickly, and the search for the NKPDI gene took only a few hours. It had taken the Dutch Erasmus Center much longer to confirm the result on an independent selection of people.

FREGAT battling illnesses

Scientists said that from the viewpoint of genetics, depression is a unique illness. The genotype's contribution to the development of depression is about the same as in schizophrenia. Dozens of genes have already been found that control the appearance and development of schizophrenia. But not one has been well established for depression.

"Our study is the first to identify the gene that changes the protein's structure," said Aksenovich. "Until now scientists have only identified loci, that is, pieces of protein. This opens possibilities for target therapy and the development of medicine, which in some way will correct these defects."

The Siberian scientists do not plan to continue research in this field. Their main specialization is the development of statistical analysis methods and new program packages. The scientists published the information they obtained on depression in Biological Psychiatry magazine so that it could be at their colleagues' disposal.

The FREGAT research is now stored in an international program archive called CRAN (the Comprehensive R Archive Network), which has open access. Any scientist can download and use it. According to the developers, the program can also be used to identify genes responsible for other illnesses.

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