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Depression Gene Proving Elusive

Biological minded psychiatrists are now going back to the drawing boards. One of their most celebrated findings according a New York Times article published yesterday has been debunked. A 2003 report on finding the depression gene has proven premature.

The theory runs like this, why do some people get in the dumps, and stay in the dumps, rather than doing as other people do, bouncing back. It is because, or so runs the reasoning of these researchers, they must have a ‘stay in the dumps’ gene. ‘Eternal despair’ is not so biologically determined, it would seem, as they had at first thought it would be.

The original study followed 847 people from birth to age 26 and claimed that those most likely to be crippled by the blues had a particular gene involved in the regulation of serotonin.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter. Drugs currently on the market to treat depression are thought to work by extending the life of serotonin in the brain. Funny then, is it not? That these doctors would discover that the gene that caused depression was involved with the regulation of this neurotransmitter, so instrumental in explaining the actions of their wonder drug in treating depression.

There are studies, by the way, suggesting that these drugs work no better than an enhanced placebo when it comes to the treating of depression.

Since then, researchers have tried to replicate the gene finding in more than a dozen studies. Some found similar results; others did not. In the new study, being published Wednesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Neil Risch of the University of California, San Francisco, and Dr. Merikangas led a coalition of researchers who identified 14 studies that gathered the same kinds of data as the original study. The authors reanalyzed the data and found “no evidence of an association between the serotonin gene and the risk of depression,” no matter what people’s life experience was, Dr. Merikangas said.

By contrast, she said, a major stressful event, like divorce, in itself raised the risk of depression by 40 percent.

Report on Gene for Depression Is Now Faulted
By BENEDICT CAREY
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/17/science/17depress.html?ref=global-home

Those of us with a more logical grip on matters have always understood that the difference between having a bad week and clinical depression could be a visit to the psychiatrists office.

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