Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Genetic predictors of postpartum depression uncovered

Date:
May 21, 2013
Source:
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Summary:
Researchers say they have discovered specific chemical alterations in two genes that, when present during pregnancy, reliably predict whether a woman will develop postpartum depression.

Johns Hopkins researchers say they have discovered specific chemical alterations in two genes that, when present during pregnancy, reliably predict whether a woman will develop postpartum depression.

The epigenetic modifications, which alter the way genes function without changing the underlying DNA sequence, can apparently be detected in the blood of pregnant women during any trimester, potentially providing a simple way to foretell depression in the weeks after giving birth, and an opportunity to intervene before symptoms become debilitating.

The findings of the small study involving 52 pregnant women are described online in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

"Postpartum depression can be harmful to both mother and child," says study leader Zachary Kaminsky, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "But we don't have a reliable way to screen for the condition before it causes harm, and a test like this could be that way."

It is not clear what causes postpartum depression, a condition marked by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, exhaustion and anxiety that begins within four weeks of childbirth and can last weeks, several months or up to a year. An estimated 10 to 18 percent of all new mothers develop the condition, and the rate rises to 30 to 35 percent among women with previously diagnosed mood disorders. Scientists long believed the symptoms were related to the large drop-off in the mother's estrogen levels following childbirth, but studies have shown that both depressed and nondepressed women have similar estrogen levels.

By studying mice, the Johns Hopkins researchers suspected that estrogen induced epigenetic changes in cells in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that governs mood. Kaminsky and his team then created a complicated statistical model to find the candidate genes most likely undergoing those epigenetic changes, which could be potential predictors for postpartum depression. That process resulted in the identification of two genes, known as TTC9B and HP1BP3, about which little is known save for their involvement in hippocampal activity.

Kaminsky says the genes in question may have something to do with the creation of new cells in the hippocampus and the ability of the brain to reorganize and adapt in the face of new environments -- two elements important in mood. In some ways, he says, estrogen can behave like an antidepressant, so that when inhibited, it adversely affects mood.

The researchers later confirmed their findings in humans by looking for epigenetic changes to thousands of genes in blood samples from 52 pregnant women with mood disorders. Jennifer L. Payne, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Women's Mood Disorders Center, collected the blood samples. The women were followed both during and after pregnancy to see who developed postpartum depression.

The researchers noticed that women who developed postpartum depression exhibited stronger epigenetic changes in those genes that are most responsive to estrogen, suggesting that these women are more sensitive to the hormone's effects. Specifically, two genes were most highly correlated with the development of postpartum depression. TTC9B and HP1BP3 predicted with 85 percent certainty which women became ill.

"We were pretty surprised by how well the genes were correlated with postpartum depression," Kaminsky says. "With more research, this could prove to be a powerful tool."

Kaminsky says the next step in research would be to collect blood samples from a larger group of pregnant women and follow them for a longer period of time. He also says it would be useful to examine whether the same epigenetic changes are present in the offspring of women who develop postpartum depression.

Evidence suggests that early identification and treatment of postpartum depression can limit or prevent debilitating effects. Alerting women to the condition's risk factors -- as well as determining whether they have a previous history of the disorder, other mental illness and unusual stress -- is key to preventing long-term problems.

Research also shows, Kaminsky says, that postpartum depression not only affects the health and safety of the mother, but also her child's mental, physical and behavioral health.

Kaminsky says that if his preliminary work pans out, he hopes a blood test for the epigenetic biomarkers could be added to the battery of tests women undergo during pregnancy, and inform decisions about the use of antidepressants during pregnancy. There are concerns, he says, about the effects of these drugs on the fetus and their use must be weighed against the potentially debilitating consequences to both the mother and child of forgoing them.

"If you knew you were likely to develop postpartum depression, your decisions about managing your care could be made more clearly," he says.

The research was funded in part by the Solomon R. & Rebecca D. Baker Foundation, the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Mental Health (MH093967 and K23 MH074799-01A2) and the NARSAD 2010 Young Investigator Award.

The investigators have filed a provisional patent application for DNA methylation at biomarker loci related to postpartum depression.

Along with Payne and Kaminsky, Jerry Guintivano of Johns Hopkins' Mood Disorders Center also contributed to this research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Johns Hopkins Medicine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J Guintivano, M Arad, T D Gould, J L Payne, Z A Kaminsky. Antenatal prediction of postpartum depression with blood DNA methylation biomarkers. Molecular Psychiatry, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/mp.2013.62

Cite This Page:

Johns Hopkins Medicine. "Genetic predictors of postpartum depression uncovered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 May 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130521105256.htm>.
Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2013, May 21). Genetic predictors of postpartum depression uncovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130521105256.htm
Johns Hopkins Medicine. "Genetic predictors of postpartum depression uncovered." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130521105256.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Corporal punishment in the United States is on the decline, but there is renewed debate over its use after Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins