LivingThey identify four genes that can increase the risk...

They identify four genes that can increase the risk of suicide

New research has discovered four genetic variants that can increase the risk of dying by suicide, regardless of environmental factors. The work also identifies hundreds of other genes that require further analysis and that may also increase the likelihood that a person will attempt to kill themselves.

Although the environment has an important effect on the incidence of suicide, some studies have indicated that genetic factors also play a key role. In fact, older studies have estimated the heritability of suicide at 50%.

Now new research published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry has used modern genomic sequencing techniques to identify specific genetic factors that may increase the risk of suicide.

“Genes are like blueprints. The first step is to find the genes that increase risk . Identifying specific genes can lead to new treatments for those who need them,” explains Douglas Gray of the University of Utah Health in Salt Lake City. (USA).

4 genetic variants and 207 genes found

To identify these genes, the experts focused on 43 families who were at increased risk of suicide. By focusing on a “genetically homogeneous group,” the researchers reduced the influence of environmental factors, such as stress due to divorce, unemployment, loss of a loved one, or easy access to means of killing oneself, such as a firearm.

The researchers examined suicide cases among the distant relatives of the 43 families.
Overall, they examined the genetic variants in more than 1,300 DNA samples from people who died by suicide in Utah.

They correlated the DNA results with the Utah Population Database, which contains genealogical data and medical records for more than 8 million people. The analysis revealed specific variations in four genes that can increase the risk of suicide-related death: SP110, AGBL2, SUCLA2, and APH1B.

Additionally, the researchers identified an additional 207 genes that may influence suicide risk and need further analysis.

Previous studies have linked 18 of these genes to suicide risk and 15 of them to inflammation, further reinforcing the hypothesis that inflammation and mental health are connected. Overall, “the current work has produced several important lines of evidence,” the authors explain.

Strengths and limitations of the study

Despite the significant findings, the authors note some limitations to their study. For example, the majority of suicide cases came from people of Northern European descent, limiting the results.

Additionally, the researchers did not have access to each and every person’s mental health history. Possible diagnoses of mental health problems that the researchers were unaware of may have influenced the results.

Clearly, genetics is only part of the risk when it comes to suicide, but we hope these discoveries lead us to highly susceptible people so that we can develop better interventions to help them avoid this risk,” says study co-author Hilary Coon . “We believe these results are just the tip of the iceberg. We will continue to look for additional genetic changes that lead to risk.”

Referencia: Genome-wide significant regions in 43 Utah high-risk families implicate multiple genes involved in risk for completed suicide. Hilary Coon, Todd M. Darlington, Emily DiBlasi, W. Brandon Callor, Elliott Ferris, Alison Fraser, Zhe Yu, Nancy William, Sujan C. Das, Sheila E. Crowell, Danli Chen, John S. Anderson, Michael Klein, Leslie Jerominski, Dale Cannon, Andrey Shabalin, Anna Docherty, Megan Williams, Ken R. Smith, Brooks Keeshin, Amanda V. Bakian, Erik Christensen, Qingqin S. Li, Nicola J. Camp & Douglas Gray. Molecular Psychiatry (2018) DOI:


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