Yale researchers discover genes associated with suicidal behavior

Michelle Li

In a recent study, Yale researchers shed new light on the genetic risk factors underlying suicidal behavior.

Yale researchers identified several genes associated with quantitative suicidality scores using a suicide attempt severity scale. Such associations have been found near genes involved in anaerobic energy production, circadian clock regulation and catabolism of the amino acid tyrosine. The study, which used a sample of more than 20,000 people, was published in the Translational Psychiatry Journal on January 17.

“With suicide being one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide, you can help save lives if a better way to treat people is found through psychiatric research,” said the lead author. study Daniel Levey, who works in the human genetics division. from the Department of Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine.

The team was the first to perform a genome-wide association study on the severity of suicide attempts to investigate genetic influences.

The suicide attempt severity scale ranged from zero to four: zero for no reported suicidal attempt or ideation, one if a suicide attempt was made, two if treatment was received for an attempt, three if hospitalization medical had taken place. occurred due to one attempt and four if attempted suicide methods were classified as violent.

Levey pointed out that one of the strengths of the study was that it was conducted on people of diverse backgrounds. Of the 6,320 people who had the necessary data, there were 2,439 European American subjects and 3,881 African American subjects.

“Studying the genetic differences between ancestors was key, because what might drive the behavior of people of one ancestry may differ from another,” Levey said, pointing out that “African ancestry is under- represented in most genetic studies.

In addition to finding several genes associated with suicidal behavior, the researchers also found significant genetic overlap with major depressive disorder.

According to the study, suicidal behaviors are driven by many complex interacting genetic and environmental influences, so it is unlikely that a single gene is entirely responsible for the behavior. However, information regarding all of the genes that play a role in driving behavior can collectively provide insight into genetic risk factors.

“It won’t be enough to take individual genetics by itself and predict someone who is at risk, but collectively they could give additional insight into whether someone’s genetic background might predispose them. at greater risk,” Levey said.

Even in such a moderate sample size, finding such significant associations is a good indicator for further future research to acquire more information about the genetic risk factors underlying suicidal behaviors. So, Levey noted, the next step in the research would be to conduct the study on larger sample sizes.

In 2017, there were approximately 1,300,000 suicide attempts in the United States, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Sophie Oestergaard | sophie.oestergaard@yale.edu