Scientists formulate new Blood Test for Depression that will prove whether antidepressants will work or not
Even as depression takes its toll on millions of people worldwide, Doctors are yet to formulate or prescribe an effective medication for the problem. The biggest disadvantage is the inability to pinpoint which antidepressant works best for a particular individual suffering from various manifestations of the disease.
But hope is now here in the form of a new blood test for depression that will allow doctors to prescribe personalized medication in relation to the specifics of a patient’s condition.
1 Several million people suffer from depression in the US alone
In the US alone, over 15 million people suffer from various forms of depression or even a lethal combination of insomnia, fatigue, guilt depression and sadness. The condition without treatment can lead to suicide. 11% of young people above 12 are on antidepressants which may not actually work. The biggest reason being the current medical inability to pinpoint a customized form of medication.
The various factors causing depression make it is so complicated that Patients end up jumping wildly from one medication to the next without much improvement. This ultimately results in addictions and severe frustration. According to Leanne Williams professor of Psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford, “The disability and the real distress of experiencing depression often comes in the trial and error process that can go on for several years,”
2 The new blood test will be a beacon of hope for depression victims
Williams is in the process of researching a new blood test for depression that can predict how effective antidepressants can be in relation to a patient’s given condition. A new study authored by her found that the test would display 81% accuracy in determining the efficiency of medication. If the test is successful on completion, doctors and clinics will be able to administer effective treatment to patients suffering from depression. It will improve and reduce the time towards cure by eliminating the present trial and error period.
The test takes into account two factors of depression. The first is an early life stress survey that studies traumatic experiences in childhood. This will gauge a person’s potential risk for depression. The second involves a brain scan of the amygdala, the part of the brain which processes a person’s emotional response to stress.
3 The study
The test study involved patients who were presented photos graphs depicting a mix of happy or afraid people. The amygdala was then measured for its response to the photos. it is the amygdala’s impact on regulating emotions that would provide valuable information as to whether antidepressants would be successful.
70 people were tested where Williams was able to predict that common antidepressants such as Zoloft, lexapro and Effexor would be suitable for people who did not display strong emotions to happy or afraid photos and who did not have any traumatic experience in childhood. The test also predicted that the antidepressants would also work for those who had experienced childhood trauma but who displayed a reaction to happy photos.
4 The concluded results of the test
Whether the amygdala does retain its response to happy faces or not is the vital clue informing researchers whether antidepressants would be effective. If the amygdala does respond to happy faces, then that patient would benefit from antidepressants which would of course reduce the symptoms of depression. If it did not react then alternative forms of therapy would have to be considered.
Subjects in the study were given antidepressants and evaluated after 2 months. Williams found that the dual factor test was able to predict that medication would be effective in one third of the participants which means an accuracy rate of 81%.
5 When will the test be available to the public?
The main aim of the test says Williams is to pinpoint those who may not benefit from antidepressants. This would save valuable time and money. Alternate forms of therapy would best suit such patients over medication. The model isn’t quite ready for public use due to reasons of research and finance. Moreover the test would require both a psychiatrist and a radiologist for evaluation.
Williams has undertaken further studies to make the coordination of the new blood test for depression more feasible for patients. If this proves successful the test will be easily administered by trained pathologists and clinicians and be made available within a few years. This will be a definite beacon of hope alleviating millions of suffering people around the world.