Genes Influence Suicide Risk

According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, genes may play a significant role in determining whether a person thinks about suicide or actually attempts it. A new study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, looked at DNA from thousands of adults with bipolar disorder, some of whom had a history of suidice attempts. The researchers found that a small region on chromosome 2, which contains a gene known as ACP1, is associated with an increased risk for attempted suicide. The brains of people who had committed suicide were found to have increased levels of the ACP1 protein, which seems to influence a biological pathway thought to play a role in suicidal behavior.

Study leader Virginia L. Willour and her colleagues looked at two groups of DNA samples, all from people with biopolar disorder. The scientists chose to use DNA from bipolar sufferers in order to control for mental illness as a factor that influences suicidality. The first group, of close to 2,700 samples, contained DNA from 1,201 people with a history of suicide attempts and 1,497 without such a history. Those who had one copy of a genetic variant in chromosome 2 were 1.4 times more likely to have attempted suicide; for those with two copies of the variant the risk of a suicide attempt was nearly tripled. These findings were later replicated with a second group of DNA samples from more than 3,000 patients with bipolar disorder.

Among people with schizophrenia, the lifetime suicide risk is about 5%. While lower than what is often quoted, 5% is still more than 8 times the risk in the general population. "What's promising are the implications of this work for learning more about the biology of suicide and the medications used to treat patients who may be at risk," Willour says.

Read more: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110328131258.htm

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