Researchers in the US have identified a region of the genome on chromosome 7 that contains DNA variations that increase the risk that a person will attempt suicide. This is the conclusion of the largest genetic study of suicide attempts to date, led by a team from the New York School of Medicine and Mount Sinai Hospital.
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Researchers have analyzed more than 7.5 million common variations in the DNA sequence of nearly 550,000 people, nearly 30,000 of whom had ever tried to kill themselves. The team scanned the DNA for genetic markers that were more prevalent among those who have tried to kill themselves.
The results, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, suggest that the genetic bases of people who have made suicide attempts do not completely coincide with the typical genetic patterns in people with psychiatric disorders, although there is some overlap. In both cases (between people who attempted suicide and those with certain psychiatric disorders) these genetic patterns are partially shared, but they are also partially different.
The study has also found an overlap with the genetic bases of certain non-psychiatric risk factors (smoking, sleep disorders and poor general health, among others).
"In addition to identifying the location of the risk of suicide attempt on chromosome 7, we discovered a strong overlap between the genetic bases of suicide attempt and those of psychiatric disorders, in particular major depression, as well as some overlap with genetics smoking, pain, risk-taking, sleep disturbances and poorer general health, "says Niamh Mullins, lead author of the study and co-founder of the International Suicide Genetics Consortium, the international consortium that conducted the study and that includes more than 260 scientists from more than 20 countries.
Suicide, Mount Sinai Hospital recalls in a press release, is a public health problem worldwide, causing almost 800,000 deaths a year. It is estimated that for every suicide attempt that leads to death, there are about 20 attempts.
Suicide attempts are often the cause of disability, reduce the quality of life of people and their environment, and pose a social and economic burden. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors can be reduced with appropriate mental health treatment and support, which is why researchers consider it essential to understand the underlying biological pathways involved in suicide attempts and the ideas that motivate them.