In a groundbreaking global study led by UCL researchers, over 200 genes associated with depression have been newly identified. Published in Nature Genetics, the research uncovered more than 50 new genetic loci and 205 novel genes linked to depression, representing the first large-scale study of major depression genetics in diverse ancestry groups worldwide.

The study not only sheds light on the genetic basis of depression but also suggests potential avenues for drug repurposing. One of the identified genes encodes a protein targeted by a common diabetes drug, opening possibilities for new treatments. The findings underscore the importance of diverse genetic datasets, as previous research has predominantly focused on individuals of European ancestry.

Utilizing various genetic research methods, including genome-wide association studies and meta-analyses, the international research team analyzed data from 21 cohorts with nearly one million participants from diverse ethnic backgrounds. The study identified genes associated with depression risk, both newly discovered and reinforcing existing evidence. Notably, the study found less overlap in genetic associations across ancestry groups than expected, emphasizing the need for diverse sample populations in depression research.

Lead author Professor Karoline Kuchenbaecker emphasized the significance of overcoming Eurocentric bias in genetics research to gain a comprehensive understanding of complex diseases like depression. The study marks a crucial first step in identifying potential drug targets, though further research is needed for confirmation. Professor Kuchenbaecker highlighted the urgency of such discoveries for developing new medications to address the pressing need for effective depression treatments.

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