27E93C3A-83B9-4595-91CE-57506165869F Created with sketchtool. First Insights from the Genetics of Depression Study

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  Last updated September 21, 2017 at 2:48 pm

The first results from the Australian Genetics of Depression Study are in, giving a picture of the treatment of depression in Australia. However, it’s not too late to get involved.

The Australian Genetics of Depression Study is the world’s largest genetic investigation into clinical depression. Recruiting 20,000 Australians who have had or are currently being treated for depression, the study collects a range of information via a survey, and then the participants’ genes via a saliva sample.

The first insights from the survey portion of the study have been released.

Additionally, 75 per cent of survey respondents described relief of their depressive symptoms (including sadness and loss of pleasure in life) to be the best aspect of taking antidepressants. However, when survey respondents were asked to explain the worst thing associated with taking antidepressants, 46 per cent cited new side-effects, such as nausea, headaches, drowsiness and fatigue.

Approximately one in seven Australians will experience clinical depression during their lifetime, making it the top cause of non-fatal disability in Australia. Our nation also has one of the highest antidepressant prescribing rates per head of all OECD countries – which delivers considerable benefits, but also forces many people to contend with ongoing, disabling and potentially life-threatening medication-related side-effects.

“Our groundbreaking research should allow us to identify between 50-to-100 genes that influence a person’s risk of developing clinical depression” said study Lead Investigator Prof Nick Martin from QIMR Berghofer in Brisbane. “Only then, through cracking the genetic code of clinical depression, will we be able to develop new, and more effective, personalised treatments that target the problem directly.”

“Our interim data reveals better targeting of existing treatments through individual genetic profiling before commencing medication, would drive a major advance in clinical therapy. Given our lack of diagnostic methods to predict different responses to antidepressants, or forecast the potential for intolerable side-effects, we are exposing those battling clinical depression, to trial and error, which is often slow to deliver significant benefits,” said study Co-Investigator Prof Ian Hickie AM from the Brain and Mind Centre at The University of Sydney.

“To date, we have failed to move effectively from the general principles of treating clinical depression, to much more personalised and targeted approaches that minimise risk to maximise benefit.”

“In just over three months, we’ve enrolled 10,000 Australians into our transformative study. This remarkable response demonstrates the general public’s willingness to partner with the research community, through the sharing of personal experiences digitally, to advance scientific understanding into clinical depression. Now we urgently need another 10,000 volunteers to help us crack the genetic code of our nation’s third most burdensome disease,” Prof Hickie said.

Details on how to take part in the study are on the study’s website www.geneticsofdepression.org.au

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Ben Lewis
Ben Lewis is a Producer at Australia’s Science Channel, and Editor of the Space, and Innovation and Tech channels. He has worked with scientists and science storytellers including Brian Cox, Chris Hadfield, Robert Llewellyn, elite athletes, Antarctic explorers, chefs and comedians. Ben has also been involved in public events around Australia and was co-writer, producer and director of The Science of Doctor Who, which toured nationally in 2014 in association with BBC Worldwide Australia & New Zealand. Want more Ben? You can hear him on ABC radio in Adelaide, regional SA, NSW, and around Queensland, commercial radio in the ACT, and Radio Adelaide. He also speaks at universities around Australia on communicating science to the public. Around the office he makes the worst jokes known to mankind.


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