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First robust genetic links to depression emerge

(Nature) No one was more surprised than Jonathan Flint when his project — an effort to find genetic sequences linked to depression — showed the first hint of success 18 months ago. He knew the odds were slim: a study of 9,000 people with major depressive disorder had come up empty1, and Flint had heard rumours that a follow-up analysis of 17,000 people had also met with disappointment. “I thought, ‘There’s no way,’” says the geneticist from the University of Oxford, UK, whose study had by that point analysed only 5,303 people with depression.
Flint has proved himself wrong. In Nature this week, his team reports2 the first two genetic markers reproducibly linked to major depressive disorder, one of the leading causes of disability globally. The findings could guide biologists to new drugs, and could one day be used to aid diagnosis. But many in the field are excited that the markers have been unearthed at all. The results look set to end years of debate over whether sequences for such a complex disorder could be found — and Flint’s study may serve as a framework for future attempts to collect data from tens of thousands of people.
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