William Reay, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy at The University of Newcastle in Australia, and his colleagues have discovered a correlation between certain mental illnesses and blood biological markers.
According to their study, mental health disorders including anorexia nervosa, depression, and schizophrenia have connections to biological markers that routine blood tests can detect.
By analyzing the genetic, biochemical, and psychiatric data from almost a million people, the team found the genetic link that could pave the way for determining what really causes mental illnesses and how to treat these neurological disorders more effectively.
Contrary to Popular Belief, Mental Health Issues Are Not Separate from the Body
There was a time when the world believed that mental illnesses are separate from what is happening in the body. It was thought that the stresses that the mind suffers are not connected with any parts of the body since the brain is the most complex organ, which up to now is still largely unknown to science and medicine.
Physical injuries, heart disease, diabetes, and other similar diseases are easier to diagnose. When it comes to brain disorders, it is harder to fathom their causes from images and observations.
But this new study has established that there are biological markers in the blood that can tell if a person is suffering from some type of mental disorder. For example, the elevated risk of developing schizophrenia can be associated with a decreased level of a certain vitamin in the blood.
This new discovery offers a lot of advantages in detecting those who are at a higher risk of contracting certain mental illnesses. Once it is determined which mental illness a specific biological marker is associated with, more effective treatments could be formulated.
Correlation Is Different from Causation. More Studies are Needed
According to Reay, their study has found a correlation between the genetics of mental disorders and factors in the human blood. Nevertheless, the findings were short of revealing if blood biomarkers have anything to do with what causes mental illnesses.
In medicine, the gold standard approach to distinguish correlation from causation is to carry out clinical trials where patients receive a treatment or a placebo at random. But such trials are expensive and painstaking.
The team opted to use DNA variants instead, which are randomly inherited from parents; hence, its similarity to a conventional clinical trial. And so far, they were able to determine that some blood biomarkers are involved in the cause of some mental disorders. For instance, in cases of depression, schizophrenia, and anorexia, proteins related to the immune system may have a role in causing them.
However, there are still a lot of gray areas that must be resolved which is why Reay and his colleagues are recommending further studies. More effective treatments can be developed once the causes of mental illnesses are clearly identified.Whizzco