Biomarkers for depression


Unlucky 13

A blood test may improve the diagnosis and treatment of depression




 

May 6th 2021 | words 859



MAJOR DEPRESSION is a serious illness, but also an elusive one. It wrecks lives and may drive people to suicide. It sometimes, though not always, alternates with periods of mania in a condition called bipolar disorder. And it is disturbingly common. Reliable figures are hard to come by, but in some parts of the world as many as one person in four experiences major depression at some point during their life.

 

 

elusive

elusive / ilusiv / 

adj. 

difficult to find, define, or achieve

Eric, as elusive as ever, was nowhere to be found.  

, 

the elusive concept of 'literature'   "

"  

A solution to the problem of toxic waste is proving elusive.  

 


wreck

wreck / rek /

verb [VN] 1. to damage or destroy sth

The building had been wrecked by the explosion.   

 

The road was littered with wrecked cars.   

2. ~ sth (for sb) to spoil sth completely

The weather wrecked all our plans.   

 

A serious injury nearly wrecked his career.   

3. [usually passive] to damage a ship so much that it sinks or can no longer sail ()

The ship was wrecked off the coast of France.  

 


mania

mania / meini / 

noun 1. [C, usually sing., U] ~ (for sth / for doing sth) an extremely strong desire or enthusiasm for sth, often shared by a lot of people at the same time

(),,

SYN craze 

He had a mania for fast cars.   

 

Football mania is sweeping the country.   

2. [U] (psychology ) a mental illness in which sb has an obsession about sth that makes them extremely anxious, violent or confused

 


bipolar disorder

bipolar dis'order (also bipolar affective dis'order

noun [U, C] (also manic de'pression [U]) (psychology ) a mental illness causing sb to change suddenly from being extremely depressed to being extremely happy

 


come by sth

come by sth 1. to manage to get sth

()

Jobs are hard to come by these days.   

2. to receive sth :

 How did you come by that scratch on your cheek?   

 

 

 

Depressions diagnosis has, though, a worryingly arbitrary quality to it, depending as it does on a doctors assessment of a patients mood against a checklist of symptoms which may be present in different combinations and are often, in any case, subjective. This has led to a search for reliable biochemical markers of the illness. Not only might these assist diagnosis, they may also improve assessments of prognosis and point towards the most effective treatment in a particular case. Now, a group of neuroscientists at Indiana University, in Indianapolis, led by Alexander Niculescu, think they have found a set of markers that can do all this.

 

 

arbitrary

arbitrary / bitrri; bitri; NAmE rbtreri / 

adj. 1. (of an action, a decision, a rule, etc. ) not seeming to be based on a reason, system or plan and sometimes seeming unfair

The choice of players for the team seemed completely arbitrary.   

 

He makes unpredictable, arbitrary decisions.   

,

2. (formal) using power without restriction and without considering other people

the arbitrary powers of officials   


subjective

subjective / sbdektiv / 

adj. 1. based on your own ideas or opinions rather than facts and therefore sometimes unfair

()

a highly subjective point of view   

 

Everyone's opinion is bound to be subjective.   

 

prognosis

prognosis / prgnusis; NAmE prgnou- /

noun (pl. prognoses / -siz / )

1. (medical ) an opinion, based on medical experience, of the likely development of a disease or an illness

(),

2. (formal) a judgement about how sth is likely to develop in the future

SYN forecast 

The prognosis is for more people to work part-time in the future.   

 

 

 

As they write in Molecular Psychiatry, Dr Niculescu and his colleagues have been working with data and blood samples collected over the course of 15 years from hundreds of patients at the Indianapolis Veterans Administration Medical Centre. The targets of their investigation were small pieces of RNA, a molecule similar to DNA which is copied from the DNA of genes as part of the process by which the information encoded in those genes is used by cells to make proteins.

 

Tracking levels in the blood of relevant RNA molecules shows the activity of the underlying genes. That let the researchers identify, in an initial sample of 44 patients records, which genes were becoming more and less active as peoples mood disorders waxed and waned. To start with, they found thousands of possible candidate genes in this way, but they first narrowed these down to those that seemed to show the best prediction of mood and then, by turning to the corpus of published research on genes associated with depression, narrowed the selection still further to 26 that had previously been suspected of involvement in the illness. They then followed this clutch up in eight groups of patients, ranging in size from 97 to 226, to see which best predicted the course and details of a patients illness.

 

 

wax and wane

idiom

Fig. to increase and then decrease, as the phases of the moon.

 As the moon waxes and wanes, so does the height of the tide change. Voter sentiment about the tax proposal waxes and wanes with each passing day.

 

Narrow down

narrow sth down (to sth) 

to reduce the number of possibilities or choices

()(): 

We have narrowed down the list to four candidates.   


corpus

corpus / kps; NAmE krps / 

noun (pl. corpora / kpr; NAmE krp- / or corpuses / -siz / )

(technical ) a collection of written or spoken texts

(),,: 

a corpus of 100 million words of spoken English   

1  

the whole corpus of Renaissance poetry   

 

 

 

 

 

Thirteen markers survived this final winnowing. The genes they represent are involved in a range of activities, including running circadian rhythms (the endogenous clocks which keep bodily activities synchronised with each other and with the daily cycle of light and darkness); regulating levels in the brain of a messenger molecule called serotonin, the activity of which is well known to get out of kilter in depression; responding to stress; metabolising glucose to release energy; and signalling within cells.

 

 

winnow

winnow / winu; NAmE -nou / 

verb [VN]

to blow air through grain in order to remove its outer covering (called the chaff )

,,()

PHR V

 winnow sb / sth 'out (of sth) (formal

to remove people or things from a group so that only the best ones are left

SYN sift out 

 

circadian rhythm

Noun  (plural circadian rhythms)

1. The "internal body clock" that regulates the (roughly) 24-hour cycle of biological processes in animals and plants.


serotonin

serotonin / sertunin; NAmE -toun- /

noun [U]

a chemical in the brain that affects how messages are sent from the brain to the body, and also affects how a person feels

,(,


kilter

kilter / kilt(r) / 

noun [U]

IDIOMS

 out of 'kilter 1. not agreeing with or the same as sth else

(),

His views are out of kilter with world opinion.   

2. no longer continuing or working in the normal way

:

 Long flights throw my sleeping pattern out of kilter for days.   


glucose

glucose / glukus; -kuz; NAmE -kous; -kouz / 

noun [U]

a type of sugar that is found in fruit and is easily changed into energy by the human body

 

 

  

Together, these 13 RNA markers form the basis of a blood test that can not only diagnose depression, but also predict who will go on to develop bipolar disorder, who is likely to become ill enough to need hospital treatment in the future, and which drugs will most probably be effective in particular cases. Six of the RNAs were good predictors of depression alone. Another six predicted both depression and mania. One predicted mania alone.

 

On top of their potential role in diagnosis, three of the genes identified are known from previous work to be affected by lithium carbonate, an established treatment for bipolar disorder, and two others are affected by a class of antidepressant drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, of which Prozac is probably the best-known example. It is for this reason that Dr Niculescu thinks his blood test may help to pick appropriate treatments.

 

 

lithium carbonate

noun

1, a crystalline salt Li2CO3 used in the glass and ceramic industries and in medicine especially in the treatment of bipolar disorder

 

 

 

 

Tests of reason

 

The results even indicate some non-psychiatric drugs that might be worth trying, since the analysis showed they had characteristics which could affect some of the biomarkers. A beta blocker called Pindolol, for example, is currently used to treat high blood pressure. But this drug is also known to affect serotonin activity, and Dr Niculescu and his colleagues found, from a search of the published literature, that it has been seen to affect levels of all six of the depression-only biomarkers. That, he thinks, might make it a good candidate for the treatment of depression.

 

 


To turn all this into practical help for patients, Dr Niculescu and his colleague and co-author Anantha Shekhar have founded a company called MindX Sciences and are seeking regulatory approval for the tests medical use. If all goes well, future versions might incorporate additional biomarkers, and might use saliva rather than blood as the fluid sampled. Biomarker-diagnosis of depression is unlikely to replace assessment by checklist, which would still be needed to see who should be sent for screening in the first place. But as a way of confirming and refining diagnoses, and also of suggesting treatment in what is both an uncertain and a sensitive area, it seems an important advance. 

 

saliva

saliva / slaiv / 

noun [U]

the liquid that is produced in your mouth that helps you to swallow food

 

 



 

 



\n

Economist | Biomarkers for depression

Biomarkers for depression


Unlucky 13

A blood test may improve the diagnosis and treatment of depression




 

May 6th 2021 | words 859



MAJOR DEPRESSION is a serious illness, but also an elusive one. It wrecks lives and may drive people to suicide. It sometimes, though not always, alternates with periods of mania in a condition called bipolar disorder. And it is disturbingly common. Reliable figures are hard to come by, but in some parts of the world as many as one person in four experiences major depression at some point during their life.

 

 

elusive

elusive / ilusiv / 

adj. 

difficult to find, define, or achieve

Eric, as elusive as ever, was nowhere to be found.  

, 

the elusive concept of 'literature'   "

"  

A solution to the problem of toxic waste is proving elusive.  

 


wreck

wreck / rek /

verb [VN] 1. to damage or destroy sth

The building had been wrecked by the explosion.   

 

The road was littered with wrecked cars.   

2. ~ sth (for sb) to spoil sth completely

The weather wrecked all our plans.   

 

A serious injury nearly wrecked his career.   

3. [usually passive] to damage a ship so much that it sinks or can no longer sail ()

The ship was wrecked off the coast of France.  

 


mania

mania / meini / 

noun 1. [C, usually sing., U] ~ (for sth / for doing sth) an extremely strong desire or enthusiasm for sth, often shared by a lot of people at the same time

(),,

SYN craze 

He had a mania for fast cars.   

 

Football mania is sweeping the country.   

2. [U] (psychology ) a mental illness in which sb has an obsession about sth that makes them extremely anxious, violent or confused

 


bipolar disorder

bipolar dis'order (also bipolar affective dis'order

noun [U, C] (also manic de'pression [U]) (psychology ) a mental illness causing sb to change suddenly from being extremely depressed to being extremely happy

 


come by sth

come by sth 1. to manage to get sth

()

Jobs are hard to come by these days.   

2. to receive sth :

 How did you come by that scratch on your cheek?   

 

 

 

Depressions diagnosis has, though, a worryingly arbitrary quality to it, depending as it does on a doctors assessment of a patients mood against a checklist of symptoms which may be present in different combinations and are often, in any case, subjective. This has led to a search for reliable biochemical markers of the illness. Not only might these assist diagnosis, they may also improve assessments of prognosis and point towards the most effective treatment in a particular case. Now, a group of neuroscientists at Indiana University, in Indianapolis, led by Alexander Niculescu, think they have found a set of markers that can do all this.

 

 

arbitrary

arbitrary / bitrri; bitri; NAmE rbtreri / 

adj. 1. (of an action, a decision, a rule, etc. ) not seeming to be based on a reason, system or plan and sometimes seeming unfair

The choice of players for the team seemed completely arbitrary.   

 

He makes unpredictable, arbitrary decisions.   

,

2. (formal) using power without restriction and without considering other people

the arbitrary powers of officials   


subjective

subjective / sbdektiv / 

adj. 1. based on your own ideas or opinions rather than facts and therefore sometimes unfair

()

a highly subjective point of view   

 

Everyone's opinion is bound to be subjective.   

 

prognosis

prognosis / prgnusis; NAmE prgnou- /

noun (pl. prognoses / -siz / )

1. (medical ) an opinion, based on medical experience, of the likely development of a disease or an illness

(),

2. (formal) a judgement about how sth is likely to develop in the future

SYN forecast 

The prognosis is for more people to work part-time in the future.   

 

 

 

As they write in Molecular Psychiatry, Dr Niculescu and his colleagues have been working with data and blood samples collected over the course of 15 years from hundreds of patients at the Indianapolis Veterans Administration Medical Centre. The targets of their investigation were small pieces of RNA, a molecule similar to DNA which is copied from the DNA of genes as part of the process by which the information encoded in those genes is used by cells to make proteins.

 

Tracking levels in the blood of relevant RNA molecules shows the activity of the underlying genes. That let the researchers identify, in an initial sample of 44 patients records, which genes were becoming more and less active as peoples mood disorders waxed and waned. To start with, they found thousands of possible candidate genes in this way, but they first narrowed these down to those that seemed to show the best prediction of mood and then, by turning to the corpus of published research on genes associated with depression, narrowed the selection still further to 26 that had previously been suspected of involvement in the illness. They then followed this clutch up in eight groups of patients, ranging in size from 97 to 226, to see which best predicted the course and details of a patients illness.

 

 

wax and wane

idiom

Fig. to increase and then decrease, as the phases of the moon.

 As the moon waxes and wanes, so does the height of the tide change. Voter sentiment about the tax proposal waxes and wanes with each passing day.

 

Narrow down

narrow sth down (to sth) 

to reduce the number of possibilities or choices

()(): 

We have narrowed down the list to four candidates.   


corpus

corpus / kps; NAmE krps / 

noun (pl. corpora / kpr; NAmE krp- / or corpuses / -siz / )

(technical ) a collection of written or spoken texts

(),,: 

a corpus of 100 million words of spoken English   

1  

the whole corpus of Renaissance poetry   

 

 

 

 

 

Thirteen markers survived this final winnowing. The genes they represent are involved in a range of activities, including running circadian rhythms (the endogenous clocks which keep bodily activities synchronised with each other and with the daily cycle of light and darkness); regulating levels in the brain of a messenger molecule called serotonin, the activity of which is well known to get out of kilter in depression; responding to stress; metabolising glucose to release energy; and signalling within cells.

 

 

winnow

winnow / winu; NAmE -nou / 

verb [VN]

to blow air through grain in order to remove its outer covering (called the chaff )

,,()

PHR V

 winnow sb / sth 'out (of sth) (formal

to remove people or things from a group so that only the best ones are left

SYN sift out 

 

circadian rhythm

Noun  (plural circadian rhythms)

1. The "internal body clock" that regulates the (roughly) 24-hour cycle of biological processes in animals and plants.


serotonin

serotonin / sertunin; NAmE -toun- /

noun [U]

a chemical in the brain that affects how messages are sent from the brain to the body, and also affects how a person feels

,(,


kilter

kilter / kilt(r) / 

noun [U]

IDIOMS

 out of 'kilter 1. not agreeing with or the same as sth else

(),

His views are out of kilter with world opinion.   

2. no longer continuing or working in the normal way

:

 Long flights throw my sleeping pattern out of kilter for days.   


glucose

glucose / glukus; -kuz; NAmE -kous; -kouz / 

noun [U]

a type of sugar that is found in fruit and is easily changed into energy by the human body

 

 

  

Together, these 13 RNA markers form the basis of a blood test that can not only diagnose depression, but also predict who will go on to develop bipolar disorder, who is likely to become ill enough to need hospital treatment in the future, and which drugs will most probably be effective in particular cases. Six of the RNAs were good predictors of depression alone. Another six predicted both depression and mania. One predicted mania alone.

 

On top of their potential role in diagnosis, three of the genes identified are known from previous work to be affected by lithium carbonate, an established treatment for bipolar disorder, and two others are affected by a class of antidepressant drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, of which Prozac is probably the best-known example. It is for this reason that Dr Niculescu thinks his blood test may help to pick appropriate treatments.

 

 

lithium carbonate

noun

1, a crystalline salt Li2CO3 used in the glass and ceramic industries and in medicine especially in the treatment of bipolar disorder

 

 

 

 

Tests of reason

 

The results even indicate some non-psychiatric drugs that might be worth trying, since the analysis showed they had characteristics which could affect some of the biomarkers. A beta blocker called Pindolol, for example, is currently used to treat high blood pressure. But this drug is also known to affect serotonin activity, and Dr Niculescu and his colleagues found, from a search of the published literature, that it has been seen to affect levels of all six of the depression-only biomarkers. That, he thinks, might make it a good candidate for the treatment of depression.

 

 


To turn all this into practical help for patients, Dr Niculescu and his colleague and co-author Anantha Shekhar have founded a company called MindX Sciences and are seeking regulatory approval for the tests medical use. If all goes well, future versions might incorporate additional biomarkers, and might use saliva rather than blood as the fluid sampled. Biomarker-diagnosis of depression is unlikely to replace assessment by checklist, which would still be needed to see who should be sent for screening in the first place. But as a way of confirming and refining diagnoses, and also of suggesting treatment in what is both an uncertain and a sensitive area, it seems an important advance. 

 

saliva

saliva / slaiv / 

noun [U]

the liquid that is produced in your mouth that helps you to swallow food

 

 



 

 



\n

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