Friday, April 1, 2016

iPhone App to Aid in Genetic Research on PPD

Depression affects over 350 million people in the world and studies have found that it can be caused by both environmental and genetic factors. Due to observed patterns in depression among family members, research is being done to try to determine if there is a gene or set of genes that cause a predisposition to developing depression. Within this research, a lab from University of North Carolina has developed an iPhone app to aid in the collection of data to perform a genetic study on women with postpartum depression (PPD). The app will be utilized to allow women to fill out questionnaires about their postpartum recovery and severity of their possible PPD. If a woman has a severe case if PPD, the app will ask the woman if she is interested in providing a genetic sample to further participate in the study. With the goal of collecting over 100,000 samples from women experiencing PPD, this study will need a large number of participants in order to find this many women to complete their study.

Personally, I am skeptical about the reliability of utilizing this method of data collection. Instead of speaking with a medical professional, women are simply asked to fill out a questionnaire. I would think that typically, postpartum depression is something that should involve a doctors' consultation for diagnosis. Additionally, there is a lot that could go wrong in the analysis of genetic samples due to the method of collection. UNC plans to mail kits to women who are participating in the genetic study so that they can provide a saliva sample. Due to the fact that the sample is collected at home, the possibility of tainted samples arises. If participants wanted to, they could submit the saliva of someone else or provide a sample that was not stored correctly, which could lead to contamination. Overall, I think that this study has great intentions but there are some methodological kinks that may need to be worked out in order to collect reliable information for analysis.

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