Depression gene: its rise, its fall, its rise?

Depression and genes: it’s been a roller-coaster ride. Back in 2003, a group of scientists reported finding a link between proneness to depression and the so-called serotonin transporter gene, which regulates uptake of the chemical serotonin by nerves in the brain. (As many know, SSRI antidepressants act by making serotonin available to brain cells for longer periods of time.)  

Specifically, the study found, depending on the version of the serotonin transporter gene people had, they fared well or less well after emotional traumas.

Then, in 2009, came a fresh report — a negative one -- giving rise to a slew of cold-water-pouring headlines: “‘Depression gene’ doesn’t predict the blues,” “Depression Gene? Maybe not,” etc.  This was a pooling of 14 follow-up studies.

Now a new report, by scientists at the University of Michigan, says that in its analysis of pooled data from 54 studies, the link between which variant of this gene a person has and susceptibility to depression actually stands. The finding was published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry (unfortunately, you'll have to pay if you want to read the whole study.)

Ah, the process of science. One week, oat bran is the font of eternal youth. The next week, it kills.

It’s not clear what these new results mean. Or what next week might bring.) Meanwhile, none of these reports are arguing against a genetic link to susceptibility to depression; they’re just addressing whether this gene is linked.

Here is a good resource at the NIH where you can read about causes of depression (and much more)

And here’s a self-assessment tool from the Mayo Clinic.

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