The death of Robin Williams reminds us yet again that depression is a serious life-threatening illness and needs to be recognized as a major public health crisis. By conservative estimates, one in six Americans has lifetime experience with depressions, bipolar illnesses or related disorders. An astounding 75-80% of deaths by suicide can be traced to these illnesses.
Clinical depression is now the second-leading cause of global disability, according to new research, with the highest rates of incidence affecting working-age adults and women more than men.
The largest genome-wide study of its kind has determined how much five major mental illnesses are traceable to the same common inherited genetic variations. Researchers funded in part by the National Institutes of Health found that the overlap was highest between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder; moderate for bipolar disorder and depression and for ADHD and depression; and low between schizophrenia and autism. Overall, common genetic variation accounted for 17-28 percent of risk for the illnesses.
A RIKEN research team has discovered an enzyme called Rines that regulates MAO-A, a major brain protein controlling emotion and mood. The enzyme is a potentially promising drug target for treating diseases associated with emotions such as depression.