A well-known consumer genetic testing firm has initiated enrollment for a novel study aimed at exploring the biological underpinnings of major depressive and bipolar disorders.
23andMe is working with the Milken Institute and Lundbeck Pharmaceuticals on a trial that seeks to recruit 25,000 people diagnosed with these conditions, which will be split between 15,000 participants with major depressive disorder and 10,000 people with bipolar disorder.
Here’s how this experiment will work.
Participants will provide a saliva sample for DNA genotyping, and then complete nine monthly cognitive assessment sessions varying between 10 to 30 minutes in length. In return, they’ll receive complimentary access to 23andMe’s Personal Genome Service that includes over 75 personalized genetic reports about their health, traits, and ancestry.
The de-identified data that emerges from these tests will be analyzed for clues pertaining to how genetics and environmental factors combine to impact brain function and behavior.
“We know genetics play a role in the development of depression and bipolar, however there is a long pathway from our genes to the manifestation of complex diseases like these,” said 23andMe’s Emily Drabant Conley, PhD., the Vice President of Business Development, in a statement. “We need to look at these conditions in a more comprehensive way to advance our understanding. By studying cognitive function alongside genetics and other environmental variables on a massive scale, we hope to take a significant step forward in the study of depression and bipolar.”
More than 16 million people are living with major depressive disorder in the U.S. while nearly 6 million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder. There are clues to what may cause these disorders but nothing concrete has been determined so the outcome of this study could identify specific factors that induce these disorders.
“We look forward to leveraging our patient advocacy network and social following to help drive awareness and recruitment efforts for the 23andMe study,” said Melissa Stevens, the executive director of the Milken Institute’s Center for Strategic Philanthropy. “Moreover, we are excited to better understand the disease biology of bipolar and major depressive disorders as doing so will help us guide philanthropists to maximize the return on their mental health giving programs.”
23andMe has made progress in identifying genetic links to depression in the past. Last year, it co-authored a study with researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital that revealed 15 locations in the human genome associated with the development of major depressive disorder.
No deadline has been set for when this study could conclude, but it’s open to anyone between the ages of 18 to 50 who has been diagnosed by a physician with one of these conditions, has been prescribed medication for it, lives in the U.S., and has easy access to the internet.
Filed Under: Genomics/Proteomics