You Can Now Blame Your Depression on Your Parents and Their Lousy Genes

May 16, 2011 at 8:18 am
People with depression have some fancy designer genes. - image via
People with depression have some fancy designer genes.

It's become a convention -- OK, a cliche -- to blame one's parents for one's failure to achieve fulfillment and self-actualization and all those other things that people go to therapy to attain. But a team of researchers at Washington University have proven that this is actually true. Not for touchy-feely reasons, like excessive punishment or withholding of love, but plain and simple genetics.

Turns out there's a stretch of 90 genes on chromosome 3 that may make people more vulnerable to depression. The scientists aren't exactly sure why yet, but since that part of chromosome 3 also contains the metabolic glutamate receptor 7 gene (GRM7), which controls the transmission of a protein that affects a number of brain functions -- including depression and, interestingly, the taste umami -- they're pretty sure there's some sort of link.

The Wash. U. team made the discovery at the same time as another team from University College London (don't you just hate when that happens?), but they came to it in different ways. The British scientists followed 800 families in the UK where there were recurrent cases of depression. The Wash. U. study examined the links between depression and heavy smoking in 114 families in Australia and Finland.

But both studies pinpointed the same trouble spot on chromosome 3.

"We were working independently and not collaborating on any level," said Wash. U. investigator Pamela A. F. Madden in a press release, "but as we looked for ways to replicate our findings, the group in London contacted us to say, 'We have the same linkage peak, and it's significant.'"

"The findings are truly exciting," agreed Gerome Breen, lead author of the London study.

The scientists emphasize, however, that there's still plenty more work to be done to identify the exact depression-causing gene and how it works.

Both studies will be published in the May 16 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.