Monday, July 22, 2019

Study Debunks 'Depression Genes' Hypotheses

For years, researchers have supposedly found that a certain group of genes play a key role in depression. This has not only lead to a lot of further research, but also given doctors and patients the hope that technology like CRISPR could simply cut these genes out for future offspring. These previous ideas of depression genes come with hypotheses about the future of the disease itself.

Several of the prior studies, at least 10, saw that a certain 18 genes were completely associated with depression. Unfortunately, new testing has proven that of the 18 specific genes that scientists have associated with depression, none of them play any larger role than every other random gene in the body. Though depression is indeed a heritable condition, it “is influenced by many many variants, and individually each of those has a minuscule effect." 

Looking closer at some studies, a particular gene SLC6A4 which directly deals with the transportation of serotonin was previously said to be very important with depression. Specifically, it was believed that a person with a short version of this gene was at a higher risk for developing depression than a person with a “normal” size SLC6A4. This is even more likely if the person was exposed to early life trauma. 

Another study was done with the participation of several DNA/chromosomal data sources such as 23andMe. They used the data from those types of websites in order to determine if any of the so called “associated genes” actually played a role in producing depression when combined with childhood trauma. This is said to be the largest depression study known to man. The researchers were actually surprised to find that those 18 genes are no more related to depression than any other gene. However, it is still believed that as a group, many genes participate in the development of depression. It is important to note that “genes associated with the disease, and what they do, can ultimately come up with more accurate "polygenic scores" to predict risk and still potentially develop drugs designed to counteract that risk.”

I think that this study is really interesting because it involves scientists disproving past hypotheses about this specific disease. More genes must be looked at to determine even the smallest roles in depression, yet I don’t think this disease will ever be completely abolished. Too many genes are involved to pinpoint a certain gene removal or drug that will get rid of all symptoms. This research is a big step in furthering the scientific knowledge of depression 


  1. I find this study interesting because it tells us that there are no single genes that cause depression directly. While depression is predominantly a result of environmental factors in life, we know that many people have a predisposition to depression and that depression can run in families which demonstrates a genetic component. I was genuinely surprised to see that the 18 genes associated with depression were actually no more related to depression than any other gene. Like the article said, each gene can produce a minuscule effect toward depression. The complexity of depression makes it a hard disease to treat because of the influence of life factors and biochemical components. I definitely agree with you that since too many genes are involved, finding a single drug to combat depression may not be the answer.

  2. I love when studies go back and disprove others. The fact that they took these 18 theorized depression affecting genes and prove they are no more affecting than any other gene, shows that just because we have CRISPR technology and means doesn’t necessarily warrant its use. I completely support the use of CRISPR technology and am excited for the advances it brings, however science warrants a thoughtful approach. There should be more understanding into the human genome, before we go launching experiments to mass produce CRISPR babies.

  3. It's important to remember that correlation is not the same thing as causation. With all the genetic research being done we have to make sure that it is proven that a gene or group of genes associated with ______(fill in the blank) must be understood before we target that gene to cure a given illness. While finding a correlation between a condition and a set of genes is a big finding, it gives us nothing until we completely understand the roles of those genes. This is a major reason why companies like 23 and Me should be classified as entertainment, because it looks for correlation between certain, and sometimes silly traits, and similarities in DNA between two people. Before we jump to conclusions based on correlation it is very important to prove the impact of the gene or genes before saying a gene is likely to cause a certain condition.

  4. We always need to remind ourselves that nothing is ever for certain. Knowledge we have about the world today can easily be discredited tomorrow. This study shows just that with what we thought about the genetics of depression. We are also reminded of something we have learned throughout the course. Genes are constantly interacting with each other. Often certain phenotypes and traits have polygenetic contributions. Looking into depression, having one of these 18 genes alone does not increase the risk of depression but having a significant amount of them could have an influence.