In a groundbreaking worldwide study led by UCL researchers, over 200 genes associated with depression have been recently identified. Published in Nature Genetics, the research uncovered more than 50 new genetic loci and 205 novel genes linked to depression. This marks the first large-scale global study of the genetics of major depression across diverse ancestry groups. The findings also suggest potential for drug repurposing, as one identified gene encodes a protein targeted by a common diabetes drug. The study highlights new drug development targets for treating depression, addressing the gaps in understanding the development of this common yet complex condition. Using various genetic research methods, including genome-wide association studies and meta-analysis, the international research team analyzed data from 21 study cohorts worldwide, comprising nearly one million participants from diverse ethnic backgrounds. The study not only advanced the identification of genes associated with depression but also emphasized the importance of diversity in genetic research to ensure broad applicability of findings across ancestry groups. Lead author Professor Karoline Kuchenbaecker emphasized the need to overcome Eurocentric bias in genetic research, stating that the understanding of complex diseases like depression will remain incomplete until diverse populations are studied. The study represents a significant step toward unraveling the genetic underpinnings of depression, providing potential targets for drug development, such as the gene NDUFAF3, which encodes a protein linked to mood instability and is targeted by the diabetes drug metformin. The researchers acknowledge the need for further confirmation of these targets but emphasize the importance of this initial discovery effort in advancing our understanding of depression and developing new medications.

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