Lead author Dr. George Papakostas of the Massachusetts General Hospital said previous efforts to develop tests based on a single blood or urinary biomarker did not produce results of sufficient sensitivity.
"The biology of depression suggests that a highly complex series of interactions exists between the brain and biomarkers in the peripheral circulation," said study co-author John Bilello, chief scientific officer of Ridge Diagnostics, which sponsored the current study.
The test, developed by Ridge Diagnostics, measures levels of nine biomarkers associated with factors such as inflammation, the development and maintenance of neurons and the interaction between brain structures involved with stress response and other key functions.
The measurements are combined using a specific formula to produce a figure called the MDDScore -- a number from 1 to 100 indicating in percentage form the likelihood that an individual has major depression. Clinical use the MDDScore would range from 1-10.
"It can be difficult to convince patients of the need for treatment based on the sort of questionnaire now used to rank their reported symptoms," Bilello said in statement. "We expect that the biological basis of this test may provide patients with insight into their depression as a treatable disease rather than a source of self-doubt and stigma."
The findings were published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.
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