How to Predict Suicide Risk?

Being capable to recognize those at high chance for suicide is important for prevention, but there is not presently an efficient way to forecast this danger. Now, scientists from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, say they have identified a chemical alteration in a gene connected to stress reactions that could allow the development of a blood test to estimate a person’s threat of suicide continually.

The study’s outcomes could assist in developing a test to determine those at threat of committing suicide

The research, lead by Zachary Kaminsky, is presented in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

With respect to the CDC, in 2009, suicide was the 9th major cause of death in the US among individuals aged 10 and older, causing in 36,890 deaths overall.

“Suicide is a main preventable public health issue,” states that Kaminsky, “but we have been stymied in our prevention initiatives because we have no reliable way to estimate those who are at greater threat of killing themselves.”

He says that their test could assist them “control suicide rates by figuring out those individuals and intervening early sufficient to head off a catastrophe.”

Their results recommend that modifications in a gene that performs a role in the brain’s reaction to stress hormones is engaged in switching ordinary reactions to everyday pressures into suicidal behaviours.

To perform their study, Kaminsky and his team targeted their focus at a genetic mutation in a gene known as SKA2. They examined brain samples from deceased individuals, some of whom had been psychologically ill and some of whom was healthy. They identified that the samples of individuals who passed away by suicide had considerably decreased levels of this gene.

Model analysis forecasts suicide threat with more than 80% reliability

Examining further, the scientists identified that some subjects had an epigenetic adjustment that modified the way SKA2 controlled – without modifying the gene’s DNA sequence. This adjustment added chemicals – known as methyl groups – to the gene, they claim.

These greater methylation levels were identified in the study patients who had committed suicide, and the team describes that these results were repeated in two independent brain cohorts.

The scientists next examined three various sets of blood samples, the most significant of which involved 325 living individuals, and identified similar raises in methylation in SKA2 in those individuals who reported suicidal feelings or attempts.

Dependent on this, the team developed a model analysis that forecasted with 80% reliability which of the individuals were experiencing suicidal feelings or had tried suicide.

And in those with a more serious danger of suicide, the model research was able to estimate with 90% reliability. Based on blood outcomes, the team was capable to recognize – with 96% reliability – whether or not a individual had tried suicide in the youngest data set.

With respect to the scientists, SKA2 is expressed in the pre-frontal cortex, which performs a role in suppressing negative feelings and managing impulsive behaviours. This gene is also accountable for directing stress hormone receptors into the nuclei of cells so they can function.

However, if there is not sufficient SKA2 or if it modified in some way, the stress hormone receptor turns into incapable to stop the release of cortisol in the brain.

Potential applications

Kaminsky and his team are optimistic that examine based on their results might be used to forecast future suicide attempts in those at greatest risk, which could assist facilitate treatments.

Potential applications include in the army, where people could be examined for the gene mutation, and if identified, could be more carefully supervised upon their return home. Furthermore, a test would be helpful in a psychiatric emergency room, where physicians could evaluate suicide level risks.

Leaving comments on their outcomes, Kaminsky says:

“We have identified a gene that we think could be genuinely significant for continually determining a variety of behaviours from suicidal feelings to attempts to completions. We require to research this in a larger sample, but we think that we might be ca
pable to monitor the blood to determine those at risk of suicide.”

He adds that – although it requires additional study – the test could possibly be used to inform therapy arrangements, such as whether or not to administer certain drugs connected with suicidal thoughts.