The study opens new possibilities for developing medicine and therapy for psychological disorders. The Siberian scientists uploaded the program for public access. It was developed in the process of looking for the gene and can be used for studying other illnesses.
According to the World Health Organization, 350 million people suffer from depression. Moreover, the development of the illness in 30-40 percent of them is related to genetic factors. Scientists from the Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Novosibirsk discovered a gene that affects the development of depression in Europeans.
They called the new gene NKPDI. Since the study used genetic material from Europeans, experts say that Mongoloids, that is, Asian people, and Negroids – people with black or chocolate color skin do not have this gene. Another gene is responsible for their depression and it still has to be found.
The scientists hope that the discovery will help create medicine for this common illness. When carrying out the study they used genetic analysis methods developed in the Siberian institute.
The gene that controls depression
When looking for the “depression gene” the Siberian geneticists-mathematicians analyzed information on more than 2,000 people. It had been provided by the Dutch Erasmus Center in Rotterdam, which studies depression.
“We did not look at each genetic variation separately, as it is usually done in such studies,” said the study’s director, Doctor of Biological Sciences Tatyana Aksenovich.
Instead, we took the gene in its entirety and looked only at those genetic variations that change the structure of the corresponding protein. One of our other peculiarities is that we focused on the so-called depression symptoms and not on the confirmed diagnosis
In order to identify the gene that participates in controlling depression, Candidate of Biological Sciences Nadezhda Belonogova developed the FREGAT program. It includes both “regional association analysis” methods that analyze the gene in its entirety and new methods developed in the research process.
The Siberian scientists say that thanks to the program, the information is processed very quickly: the search for the NKPDI gene took only a few hours. It had taken the Dutch Erasmus Center much longer to confirm the result on an independent selection of people.
FREGAT battling illnesses
Scientists remark that from the viewpoint of genetics, depression is a unique illness. The genotype’s contribution to the development of depression is about the same as in schizophrenia. Dozens of genes have already been found that control the appearance and development of schizophrenia. But not one has been well established for depression.
“Our study is the first to identify the gene that changes the protein’s structure,” notes Aksenovich.
Until now scientists have only identified loci, that is, pieces of protein. This opens possibilities for target therapy and the development of medicine, which in some way will correct these defects
The Siberian scientists do not plan to continue the study in this field. Their main specialization is the development of statistical analysis methods and new program packages. The scientists published the information they obtained on depression in the scientific Biological Psychiatry magazine so that it could be at their research colleagues’ disposal.
The FREGAT program is now located in an international program archive called CRAN (the Comprehensive R Archive Network), which has open access. Any scientist can download and use it. According to the developers, the program can also be used to identify genes responsible for other illnesses.