A Blood Test For Mental Illness.
Biomarkers and their potential to diagnose mental illnesses.
Alexander Niculescu and his colleagues at Indiana University’s School of Medicine have spent the last 20 years researching biological markers for mental illnesses.
”We have pioneered the area of precision medicine in psychiatry … To help it become like other contemporary fields such as oncology. …[and] to save and improve lives.” — Alexander Niculescu, MD, PhD.
Niculescu and his team identified biomarkers that signify suicidal ideation, PTSD, other stress-related disorders, Alzheimer’s, and depression and mania in bipolar.
Biological markers for mental illnesses would improve the speed and accuracy of diagnosis, identify risks for prevention opportunities, and help tailor suitable treatments.
Blood tests may be taken when diagnosing mental illnesses to rule out diet and lifestyle influences or biological causes such as nutritional deficiencies, low blood sugar, high cholesterol, and dysfunction of the kidney, liver, or thyroid.
However, the development of more specific testing for mental illnesses is still in process. The considerable overlap of traits and behaviours between neuropsychiatric disorders makes it difficult to link biomarkers to specific disorders.
Current diagnoses include laboratory tests, a thorough examination of the patient’s medical history, questionnaires, personal accounts, and the accounts of those close to the patient, among other diagnostic tools, depending on the mental health professional's background and preferences.
Before biomarkers can be deemed valid for testing, they need to show strong predictive indicators within a clinically valid sample and demonstrate a high degree of sensitivity and specificity to a trait or disorder. Next, biomarkers must be measurable, accessible, and affordable.