THE GENETIC LINK TO SUICIDE

 THE GENETIC LINK TO SUICIDE

 Someone in the world commits suicide every forty seconds. We often think of suicide as a conscious choice made by thinking people, but a new research study has discovered a genetic link to suicidal behaviour.
 In Johns Hopkins University in the United States, researchers analysed 150 brain samples of deceased mentally ill patients – some of whom had taken their own lives. The researchers discovered that all of those who had committed suicide had a mutation in the SKA2 gene. This gene expresses itself in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, and it determines how the brain reacts to stress hormones.
 In short, it enables us to deal with stress better.
 When this gene’s function changes – due to mutation or other chemical changes – someone who is stressed will not be able to turn off the effects of the stress hormone Cortisol. This will lead to constant stimulation of the ‘fear’ part of the brain, worsening the impact of even ‘little things’ like everyday stress.
 The results of this study were confirmed when researchers analysed blood samples of 325 participants in the Johns Hopkins Centre for Prevention Research Study, and found that there was a high degree of correlation between suicidal thoughts and a chemical alteration in the SKA2 gene.
 And the blood test that the researchers designed predicted with 90% accuracy whether a given person had suicidal thoughts or had made an attempt to take their life sometime in the past.
If studied on a larger sample, and if the results are replicated, it is possible that we can establish a genetic link to suicidal behaviour, and not only use it to catch suicidal thoughts early, but also look at ways to correct chemical imbalances of this sort and ‘cure’ such patients.

Kanishtha Thapa

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