Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine researchers discovered a gene which may potentially signal one's predisposition to suicide.
According to a new study, this gene is identified as the SKA2, a gene that is believed to regulate the stress response in the brain. When a person is stressed, stress hormone cortisol normally floods the whole body.
The team also found an epigenetic chemical change on the SKA2 that appears to be more common in those who committed suicide than people who died due to other causes. If the SKA2's function is impaired by an epigenetic change, a stressed person will not be able to shut down the cortisol effect which would be similar to having a malfunctioning brake pad, worsening the effects of daily stresses.
"We have found a gene that we think could be really important for consistently identifying a range of behaviors from suicidal thoughts to attempts to completions," Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine psychiatry and behavioral sciences assistant professor and study author Zachary Kaminsky said.
SKA2 is in the prefrontal cortex at the brain portion which regulates impulsive behavior and negative thoughts. The researchers found that in the brains of those who killed themselves, SKA2 levels were lower than in the brains of those with no mental health problems.
According to the team, suicide is a preventable public health concern but people have been stymied in their prevention efforts since there wasn't a consistent way to predict people who are at an increased risk of suicide. With the team's test, they may stem suicide rates through identifying these people and intervening early to fight off a potential catastrophe.
For the study, the team tested three blood sample sets in which they were able to predict those who had attempted to kill themselves or had suicidal thoughts with 80 percent accuracy based on blood tests alone. They predicted people with higher suicidal tendencies with 90 percent accuracy. Researchers predicted adolescents who had attempted to kill themselves with 96 percent accuracy.
If their findings are verified, such test might be used to identify those in psychiatric emergency rooms to be monitored for risk of suicide.