Friday, August 1, 2008

Pharmacogenetics and depression

A few weeks ago, the Mayo Clinic recently published a new study on phamacogenetics (the study of how people's genetic makeup affects their response to medication) and depression. Researchers genotyped DNA from 1,914 individuals from a sample of the Star-D study (Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression Study), a seven year study that analyzed treatment of depression in adults. In this particular study, they looked at the serotonin receptor gene, SLC6A4, and the likelihood to respond to the anti-depressant, citalopram (celexa). The results showed that there are two variations in the gene which determine who may respond to this anti-depressant.

The researchers also investigated among racial populations of white, black, and hispanic individuals. They found only the white patients with the two distinct variations in gene were more likely to have remission of depression symptoms as compared to the other two groups.


Personally, I find pharmacogenetics really fascinating. It's essentially an extension of personalized medicine. If you have read this blog before, you know I'm a big advocate of this. I talk about it in this post awhile back with rEEG and eating disorders. There's just so much out there that we don't know about the very nature of our own human genetic make-up--what works, what doesn't, etc., but we continue to learn everyday new discoveries for implications in a variety of disorders. The chairman of the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Mrazek, sums it up nicely in regards to this study.

He says, "
Each step is a step toward greater accuracy in prescribing the right medication for each patient. "First, we started with trial and error - which feels like flipping a coin to select a medication. The Holy Grail would be to be able to consider the implications of variations in many genes. Ultimately, we hope to be able to determine with great accuracy which patients will respond to specific antidepressants and which patients will almost certainly not respond."

He also estimates that within two years there will be more extensive tests available which will focus on more than one gene. I guess this is a stay tuned for now to see what new research will emerge.

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