New gene identification could be used to identify suicide risk

Unfortunately, some people find themselves so overwhelmed and unable to cope with life that they can end up taking their own lives. In 2012, approximately 6,000 people committed suicide in the UK, according to the Samaritans helpline.

Reliable identification of suicide risk is paramount for successful prevention, and there are biological markers that can show people who are most at risk, according to new research.

Suicide is not just caused by a negative state of mind – unfortunately biological differences in the prefrontal cortex area of the brain have been found to increase the risk of depression as a result of stress.

More specifically, alteration to a gene, known as SKA2, could put people at a greater risk of attempting suicide. This knowledge could be used to create a blood test to analyse risk.

SKA2 helps to inhibit impulsive behaviour and negative thoughts, so a change to it can cause some people to make drastic choices when they are feeling low.

The researchers took brain samples from deceased people with mental illnesses, some of whom had committed suicide and from decedents with a clean history of mental health prior to their death.

Lower levels of SKA2 were found in those who had committed suicide.

By doing large scale blood tests on live people after this discovery, the researchers were reported to be able to predict a high risk of suicide in subjects at a rate of about 90% accuracy.

The study was carried out by Johns Hopkins researchers, and led by Dr Zachary Kaminsky. Their work could find its way into the health care system in the future and help to reduce the suicide rate across the globe.

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