A simple blood test may be able to predict if a person will commit suicide or not, says a new study from researchers at John Hopkins University.
According to the study, a blood test can pick up on genetic changes linked to suicide. Although genes can not directly decide behaviors, they can be indicators of how a person might act.
“We have found a gene that we think could be really important for consistently identifying a range of behaviors” relating to suicide, explained study researcher Zachary Kaminsky, who is an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine.
For the study, the researchers looked at genes in brain tissue samples from people who had died of suicide. They discovered that a genetic mutation found in a gene called SKA2 was common among the people who died by suicide. The SKA2 gene is most abundant in the prefrontal regions of the brain that are involved in dampening negative thoughts.
The researchers then took blood samples from 325 test participants. Using these blood samples, they were able to see if a person had the SKA2 genetic mutation of not. Taking that in account, as well as the person’s age, sex, stress levels, and anxiety levels, the researchers were able to predict if a person had ever tried to commit suicide or had suicidal thoughts.
The researchers were able to correctly identify 80 percent to 96 percent of people who experience suicidal thoughts or attempts. They were most accurate among people who had a severe risk of suicide.
Even though the study is promising, a lot more research will need to be done on a bigger scale to be able to use these tests in a hospital setting, the researchers noted. If it tests ever do become available for the public, it could help to identify people in need of psychiatric help and save them from committing suicide.
The study was published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry.