It would be excellent if a blood test could tell everything about our physical and mental health. In addition, the healthcare system and the people affected by mental disorders will have numerous convenient benefits if a blood test could determine their mental state.
Thanks to multiple pieces of research conducted by a team at the United States Indiana University of School of Medicine, we have the first biological answer for diagnosing mood disorders and depression.
This breakthrough in psychiatry uses the RNA markers in our blood tests to diagnose mood disorders. Let us learn what our blood test can tell about our mental health and how it is analyzed.
Blood Test for Accurately Predicting Depression and Bipolar Disorder
Research has opened the gateway to diagnosing mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder and depression through biomarkers present in our bodies. In addition, these biomarkers provide vital information that governs our body’s way of responding to particular treatments.
For example, some biomarkers in the body provide information regarding our body’s response to cancer treatments. It means that targeted cancer treatments and immunotherapies only work on people who have specific biomarkers.
Similarly, mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, anorexia, and depression are also linked to biomarkers detected in a blood test. Therefore, research on these biomarkers is vital for increasing our understanding of mental illness and its treatment.
However, we don’t have special biomarker tests for depression or psychiatric disorders that determine their impact on our mental health.
But according to new research, the levels of nerve growth factor were lower in people with bipolar disorder or depression than in healthy people.
Mental healthcare professionals can use the levels of growth factors to monitor the efficacy of antidepressant treatment. However, to understand more about blood tests and how they help analyze mental health, we must learn about the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
What Is Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF)?
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein in adults that promotes the survival and growth of nerve cells. These nerve cells play a crucial role in memory, learning, brain flexibility, etc.
Psychological stress and depression can significantly reduce the blood levels of one form of protein. This protein is the mature brain-derived neurotrophic factor, also called mBDNF. Therefore, low levels of mBDNF are associated with clinical depression.
But commercially available blood tests cannot differentiate between the mBDNF and its associated precursor, proBDNF. ProBDNF binds to different receptors, causing nerve degeneration and inflammation.
According to various studies, nerve inflammation and degeneration are linked with depression. ProBDNF is known to activate the immune system.
Therefore, it acts differently than mature BDNF. Thus, the accurate measurement of proBDNF and mature BDNF are crucial for diagnosis.
Notably, injecting proBDNF into the muscle or brain cells can trigger depression and associated behavior.
Accurate measurement of mBDNF helps diagnose mental disorders because people with depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder have lower levels of blood mBDNF. Doctors can use these results to monitor treatments’ success and diagnose these conditions as mBDNF is an objective biomarker.
What Is a Biomarker?
A biomarker is a biological molecule in your blood, tissues, or body fluids. It is a sign of a particular process or disease in the body, indicating normal or abnormal body conditions.
Biomarkers are also called signature molecules or molecular markers that indicate how well your body responds to treatment. They are present in your blood and are detected by a routine blood test to give vital information about diet, lifestyle, or the effect of a drug.
Depression & Schizophrenia Can Be Detected by Examining Blood Biomarkers
Many people separate mental health from physical health, but there is clear evidence that biochemical substances in a disease such as autoimmune disorders directly impact brain function.
In addition, various studies indicate that mental health is closely associated with our physical health.
Biomarkers are such molecules that are readily measured through routine blood tests. However, it is challenging to study the role of biomarkers in mental health disorders. But blood biomarkers and mental illnesses are complex traits studied by geneticists.
In these complex traits, various genes and environmental factors contribute to change.
Scientists have used widespread genetic data to investigate the minor changes in the DNA sequences responsible for mental health problems. These little changes are linked to an increased risk of mental illnesses and the measured levels of blood biomarkers.
For example, a particular variant in a gene increases the risk of developing schizophrenia. It is also responsible for decreasing specific vitamins circulating in the bloodstream.
Many of these variants are responsible for mental health disorders when minor changes occur. However, small changes in the variants add together to produce significant effects. As a result, they increase the risk for mental illnesses.
How Are Blood Biomarkers Related to Mental Illness?
One recent study investigated the use of genetics to determine the relationship between mental health disorders and factors measured in blood tests such as vitamins, enzymes, cholesterol, and indicators of inflammation.
The study used genetic information from millions of volunteers and found a genetic correlation between mental illness and blood biomarkers.
Genetic correlation is a quantitative genetic parameter describing the relationship between two traits. In this study, the two traits are mental illnesses and the levels of biomarkers.
There is a positive genetic correlation between depression and white blood cell count, indicating that a single process in the body influences both white blood cell count and depression. Therefore, identifying the shared process can give us a better understanding of the causes of depression.
In conclusion, biomarkers in the blood can provide vital details about our mental health. However, more research in this area must be conducted to analyze the particular blood tests accurately.
Mental health disorders affect millions of people across the globe. However, about one-third of people with bipolar disorder and depression are resistant to antidepressants. To read more about various health topics visit healthreporter.com
This could be due to the imbalance of BDNF and other proteins closely related to the increased risk of mental health and how various treatments affect a person. Analyzing blood samples for lower levels of biomarkers can help diagnose mental illnesses in such people to devise a personalized treatment plan.