About 1 in 5 women develop depression at some point in their life. A new study revealed that numerous genes that regulate the activity of a neurotransmitter in the brain, were found to be in abundance in the brain tissue of depressed females. These findings could be an underlying cause of the higher incidence of suicide among women, suggested Monsheel Sodhi from University of Illinois at Chicago, an Indian-origin scientist.
After studying post-mortem tissue from brains of psychiatric patients Sodhi noted that female patients with depression had abnormally high expression levels of many genes that regulate the glutamate system, which is widely distributed in the brain. The research team discovered that three of these genes were found to be elevated in both male and female patients who had died by suicide. Glutamate is the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain; and schizophrenia, epilepsy, autism and Alzheimer's disease have all been linked to abnormalities of the glutamate system.
Sodhi said, "Gender plays a role in depression and suicide. Women are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide, but men are four times more likely to die by suicide. Our data indicate that females with major depression who are at high risk of suicide may have the greatest antidepressant benefit from drugs that act on the glutamate system, such as ketamine. The study also suggests new glutamate receptor targets for development of treatments for depression and identifies biochemical markers that could be used to assess suicide risk."
The study is published in the Molecular Psychiatry.