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Biomarker could predict depression risk in teenage boys


Scientists have recently reported a biomarker that could predict whether teenage boys are at risk of developing depression.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge (Cambridge, UK) have demonstrated that cortisol is linked to depression risk in teenage boys. Currently, there are no validated biomarkers to predict risk of depression in the youth population. Therefore, cortisol analysis could potentially help identify boys at risk of developing depression, allowing preventative strategies to be implemented.

Ian Goodyer, the lead author of the study, explained, “Through our research, we now have a very real way of identifying those teenage boys most likely to develop clinical depression. This will help us strategically target preventions and interventions at these individuals and hopefully help reduce their risk of serious episodes of depression and their consequences in adult life.”

Over a period of 4 years, cortisol levels in saliva were analyzed in 1858 teenage boys. The teenagers were divided into groups dependent on their cortisol levels. Individuals in group 1 had low levels of cortisol, ranging to those in group 4 that had high levels of cortisol. Self-reports were used to record and describe any symptoms of depression, which were then analyzed together with the cortisol results. The study concluded that subjects in group 4 were 14-times more likely to develop clinical depression than those in group 1.

Co-author of the study, Matthew Owens, commented, “This new biomarker suggests that we may be able to offer a more personalized approach to tackling boys at risk for depression.”

Sources: Owens M, Herbert J, Jones PB et al. Elevated morning cortisol is a stratified population-level biomarker for major depression in boys only with high depressive symptoms. PNAS DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1318786111 (2014) (Epub ahead of print); First biomarker could help boys at risk of major depression.



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