At the moment, scientists can find out a lot about our health by analysing a single drop of blood. From viruses to our cholesterol level, certain markers in our blood reveal a lot about our physical health. Now, following a study in the United States, it’s possible to use those markers to discover more about our mental health, as researchers at the Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois have discovered a simple but effective way to diagnose depression. By analysing a blood sample, they are able to assess certain markers in the blood, which are seen to have different levels in patients with depression.
Until now, depression has been diagnosed in a subjective way, with almost half of depressed people in the United States not receiving an official diagnosis at all. Usually doctors assess their patients by asking them a series of questions, with the result that only 50% of cases receive an accurate diagnosis. However, this is all set to change as a result of this new test, as guesswork can now be taken out of the diagnosis. Furthermore, the results of the study have provided further evidence that depression is indeed a physiological illness rather than something that is just in the mind.
The test assesses the level of blood markers for RNA and based on the way these markers behave can also predict who will benefit from therapies such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)
The test assesses the levels of blood markers for RNA, the molecules that interpret and carry out instructions from the DNA, and which act as a messenger to create the proteins that perform all the important functions within our cells. Based on the way some of these markers behave, the test can also predict who will benefit from therapies such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).
The levels of nine RNA markers were assessed, in both patients with depression, and those who weren’t suffering from depression. The study, which was made up of 32 adults in total, found that the levels of these 9 markers changed following 18 weeks of CBT or talk therapy. These changes proved that it is possible to detect physical evidence in the blood which shows that the therapy initiated positive changes in the way the patients felt. This is great news for both doctors and people with depression, as it means that doctors will, in future, be able to offer more effective, individualised therapy along with their diagnosis.
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