A Biological Mark for Depression

Depressive disorder linked to cytokine levels

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Depression affects millions of people in the United States, and as soldiers overseas head back to their native shores, it rears its ugly head towards many of them as well.

In an effort to domestically combat this negativity for patriots, a recent study investigates susceptibilities to depressive disorders, and researchers find a biomarker depicting an increased risk in developing symptoms.

"Ask a doctor about blood cytokine levels if concerned about MDD."

Mirjam van Zuiden, Ph.D., of University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht and colleagues performed a complete biological assessment on 733 military personnel before and after deployment to a combat zone and  sought to find out whether or not the presence of depression symptoms six months after returning home coincided with the capacity to produce cytokines, involved extensively in intercellular communication within our nervous and immune systems.

In order to determine whether these biological talkers create susceptibility to MDD, researchers captured blood samples before deployment and twice after at one- and six-months ensuing return. A latent growth model, depicting measures of cytokine as a function of time, captured differences between those with depressive symptoms (68 soldiers) and those without (665) at six months post deployment.

According to Dr. Zuiden and his team, “Individuals with depressive symptoms after deployment showed higher T-cell cytokine production before deployment. Moreover, pre-deployment T-cell cytokine production significantly predicted the presence of depressive symptomatology 6-months after return.”

Most soldiers showed an increase in their T-cell cytokine production through the course of the study, yet this increase was smaller in depressed individuals. Chemokines, small cytokines that redirect the movements of their environment, also increased during combat; however steadily decreasing after heading home.

“These results indicate that increased T-cell mitogen-induced cytokine production before deployment may be a vulnerability factor for development of depressive symptomatology in response to deployment to a combat-zone,” Zuiden explains. “In addition, deployment to a combat-zone affects the capacity of T-cells and monocytes to produce cytokines and chemokines until at least 6 months after return.”

If concerned about major depressive disorder or if exhibiting symptoms of depression, talk to a doctor to fight the problem before it worsens.  

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 15, 2011
Last Updated:
December 18, 2011