A study published in the current issue of the American Journal of Medical Genetics B by Ming Tsuang, and colleagues based at the University of California, suggests that accurate diagnoses of mental illnesses could soon be made by assessing gene expression profiles in blood.
Psychiatric illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, contribute greatly to the global burden of disease but are notoriously hard to accurately diagnose. It is impossible to take brain biopsies from living patients, and no standard laboratory methods exist to detect symptoms of the disease using other body tissues. This means that diagnosis traditionally relies upon verbal interviews and subjective behaviour assessments made by psychiatrists.
Analysing blood samples from schizophrenic, bipolar and unaffected control individuals, Tsuang’s team found that each diagnostic group exhibited a unique gene expression profile. Looking specifically at eight genes thought to play a role in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, they were able to accurately discriminate between the disorders with an accuracy of 95%.
The results of this study highlight the potential utility of blood-based RNA profiling and should aid the development of accurate diagnostic tools for psychiatric disorders.
American Journal Medical Genetics B
Message posted by: Jonathan Mill
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