A universal blood test can help predict if a person is at high suicide risk. Indiana University researchers report that it is available for everyone and even personalized versions are available to determine certain subtypes of suicidality for high-risk people.
According to the American Journal of Psychiatry, this discovery concerns a slight change in a gene that is associated with how the brain reacts to stress hormones. This change is this gene can play a serious role in how the brain might react to a somewhat unremarkable event and end up changing that reaction into suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
As we know, suicide has always been a major public health problem, however, we have never had a consistent way to help treat it due to the difficult nature in how to predict it’s onset. With this test, we can stem the suicide rate by identifying those people and hopefully prevent a life-ending decision.
What the Blood Test for Suicide Study Found
The study included focusing on a mutated gene called SKA2. For those who had died from suicide, versus healthy people, the levels of SKA2 in the suicide candidates was much lower.
In another part of the study, three different sets of blood samples were taken from participants at John Hopkins Center. The largest group of people consisted of 325 participants. Another similarity was drawn in suicidal candidates where methylation levels were also increased in SKA2. They created a model analysis in an attempt to predict those who were experiencing suicidal thoughts. They were 80% accurate at predicting these candidates in an older age group and 96% accurate at predicting this in the youngest data group.
How the Brain Shows Suicidal Tendencies
The SKA2 gene shows up in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which helps to control negative thoughts and impulsive behavior. Specifically, SKA2 helps “chaperone” stress hormone receptors into the nucleus of cells so they can perform their job. Without enough SKA2, stress hormone receptors are not able to suppress the release of cortisol into the brain. And suicidal candidates show a lack of this cortisol release throughout the brain.
How These Findings Benefit the Public
This type of blood test may be used in not just helping to predict future attempts of suicide in such candidates. It could be used in safety assessments for such things as the need for hospitalization, and how closely that candidate needs to be monitored, as well as something as significant as performing this on military members to know how vulnerable they are. The possibility this test could play a huge role in assessing which drugs to administer to patients and limiting those that can pertain to having suicidal thoughts shows great potential.
All in all, this is a hugely positive step for the future of medicine and how we can better look after patients and have more insight into treating them for their needs.