Science and Technology

Blood test detects people more likely to commit suicide

Markers in the blood can help identify patients at higher risk, leading to prevention and counseling

Foto: Indiana University
Alexander B. Niculescu, principal investigator of the study
Alexander B. Niculescu, principal investigator of the study

Researchers from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Indiana, USA, discovered a series of RNA biomarkers in the blood that may help identify people at higher risk of committing suicide.

The results indicate that biomarkers found in significantly higher levels in the blood of patients with bipolar disorder suicidal thoughts as well as a group of individuals who had committed suicide.

The research was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry,

According to the principal investigator Alexander B. Niculescu III, the results provide a first "proof of principle" for a test that could provide an early warning that a person is at higher risk of an impulsive act of suicide.

"Suicide is a major problem in psychiatry. It is a big problem in the civil sphere, it is a big problem in the military sphere and there is no objective markers. There are people who will not reveal who are having suicidal thoughts, and then make the suicide and there is nothing you can do about it. need better ways to identify, intervene and prevent these tragic cases, "says Niculescu.

Over a period of three years, the researcher and his colleagues followed a group of patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder, conducting interviews and collecting blood samples from three to six months.

The researchers conducted a variety of analyzes of blood from a subset of participants who reported a dramatic change from suicidal thoughts to a strong suicidal ideation.

They identified differences in gene expression between the states of suicidal thoughts "low" and "high" and submitted the results to a system of genetic analysis and genomics.

The researchers found that the marker SAT1 and a number of other indicators provided the strongest biological signal associated with suicidal thoughts.

Then, to validate the results, they analyzed blood samples of suicide victims and found that some of these markers were significantly higher.

Finally, the researchers analyzed the results of blood tests from two other groups of patients and found that high blood levels of biomarkers were correlated with future hospitalizations related to suicide and hospitalizations that occurred before blood tests.

"This suggests that these indicators reflect more than just a current state high risk, but may be markers of features that correlate with the risk in the long term," says Niculescu.

Although confident in the validity of biomarkers, Niculescu notes that the limitation is that the participants were all male. "There may be gender differences. Would also conduct more extensive normative studies in the general population," he says.

The team hopes that these biomarkers, along with other tools, including neuropsychological tests and checklists sociodemographic, may help identify people who are at risk, leading to preventive intervention and counseling.