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Volunteers sought for genetics of depression study

4 April 2017

Researchers are seeking adults who've been treated for depression to join a global investigation of the genetic origins of an illness affecting one in seven Australians.

Depression is a complex illness that often occurs in families, and is typically caused by a combination of genetic and environmental influences.

Co-investigator of the Australian arm of the study, Professor Ian Hickie of the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre said: “we now understand from modern neuroscience, brain imaging, brain scans and other studies, that the brain changes during clinical depression.

Study volunteers will be making a genuine contribution to better understanding, and helping us to solve this devastating illness.”
Professor Ian Hickie AM, Brain and Mind Centre, University of Sydney

“What we don’t understand, however, are the genetic causes in brain development that put you at risk of developing clinical depression.

“That’s why we need Australian adults who have, or are continuing to be treated for clinical depression by a doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist, and understand how disabling and potentially life-threatening this illness can be, to help us find the genetic causes. 

“Participating in this groundbreaking study is free and easy. Volunteers simply complete a 15 minute online survey, and, depending on their responses, may be asked to donate a saliva sample,” Professor Hickie said.

“Study volunteers will be making a genuine contribution to better understanding, and helping us to solve this devastating illness.”  

The Australian study’s lead investigator, Professor Nick Martin of the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, said the research team is seeking 20,000 Australian male and female volunteers aged 18 and above, who are currently being treated, or have been treated in the past for clinical depression.

“We are aiming to identify genetic factors that influence why various treatments for clinical depression are successful for some people, but not for others.  

“Identification of the genes that predispose people to clinical depression could revolutionise future research into causes, treatment and prevention of the illness,” Professor Martin said.

The researchers will analyse DNA from saliva samples to identify genes that may be associated with depression. Using a process called ‘genome-wide association scans’, the researchers will look for genetic similarities and differences that may explain why some people experience depression, and others don’t.

To volunteer for the Australian Genetics of Depression Study, or to learn more, click here.

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