Scientists are seeking 20,000 Australians who have been treated for clinical depression to take part in the world’s largest genetic investigation into the devastating illness.
The Australian Genetics of Depression Study is designed to detect genetic factors that contribute to clinical depression, in order to develop better treatments and ultimately find a cure.
Currently people with clinical depression are often blindly prescribed medication in the hope it will work and have few side-effects.
But their effectiveness is often not known until weeks later and in many cases treatment is successful for some people and not for others for unknown reasons.
Understanding the “genetic architecture” of depression will help to solve this problematic situation, says co-investigator and mental health campaigner Professor Prof Ian Hickie, AM from the Brain and Mind Centre at the University of Sydney.
“In psychiatry we have really suffered because we’ve been stuck with clinical categories that don’t predict very well the response to treatment,” Prof Hickie told AAP.
“Bipolar depression is a great example of that because within that group you have people who do really well with anti-depressants and some people who do hopelessly and only have severe side-effects.”
Professor Nick Martin, Head of the Genetic Epidemiology group at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, is co-leader of the study and says they’re seeking volunteers aged 18 and older who are currently being treated or have been treated in the past for clinical depression.
Volunteers will need to complete a 15-minute online survey and donate a saliva sample that will be screened for hundreds of DNA variants through a process known as ‘genome-wide association scans’ (GWAS).