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 IU Trident Indiana University

Discovery and Validation of Blood Biomarkers for Suicidality 

Project Lead: Dr. Alexander Niculescu, Indiana University School of Medicine

Update:  New paper now published in Molecular Psychiatry

Clinicians today do not have a reliable test to detect inclination or propensity towards suicide. They rely on indirect tests such as patient reported symptoms and feelings to decide whether someone requires immediate help and care. A quantitative test would be clinically useful for predicting and tracking suicidal tendencies and could allow clinicians to treat patients earlier. Dr. Niculescu, at the Dept. of Psychiatry, IU School of Medicine, has discovered that SAT1 mRNA levels may serve as a biomarker for suicidality when used in conjunction with other tests.

Individuals contemplate and are victims of suicide every day. This loss affects families and friends and leads to lifelong emotional trauma. Members of the military services are at high risk for depression and suicide. Current tests for suicide rely on self-reports and are subjective and prone to error. Developing an objective diagnostic tool would be highly useful in predicting and tracking the inclination towards suicide and would help in prevention. Developing a biomarker panel from the current research will be a crucial step in creating an objective measure of suicidality.

Dr. Niculescu, at the Dept. of Psychiatry, IU School of Medicine, has been researching mood disorders over the past two decades, and suicide more recently. He is focusing on developing molecular biomarkers for mood disorders as objective measures of mental state and ideation. The Advanced Biomedical IT Core provided software development expertise to finish developing the Convergent Functional Genomics scoring algorithm. This algorithm was instrumental in identifying the SAT1 biomarker for suicide.

Dr. Niculescu published the results in Molecular Psychiatry and the paper was the most viewed and downloaded from the website for September, 2013, indicating the paper has been well received and has made an impact.

H. Le-Niculescu, D. F. Levey, M. Ayalew, L. Palmer, L. M. Gavrin, N. Jain, E. Winiger, S. Bhosrekar, G. Shankar, M. Radel, E. Bellanger, H. Duckworth, K. Olesek, J. Vergo, R. Schweitzer, M. Yard, A. Ballew, A. Shekhar, G. E. Sandusky, N. J. Schork, S. M. Kurian, D. R. Salomon, A. B. Niculescu, 3rd, Discovery and validation of blood biomarkers for suicidality. Molecular psychiatry,  (2013); published online Epub Aug 20 (10.1038/mp.2013.95).

NSF GSS Codes:

Primary Field: Clinical Psychology (803)