Blood test diagnoses depression

HOUSTON - New technology is allowing for the first ever blood test for depression, a major breakthrough that will allow patients to be diagnosed objectively.

"I was very relieved that there was actually something that could validate how I truly felt," said "Jane," a woman who doesn't want her identity revealed because she feels there's still shame associated with major depressive disorder, or MDD. "I think this blood test could really help lower or lessen the stigma of a mental condition."

Lowering the stigma is one reason why Ridge Diagnostics, a San Diego-based company, created the blood test. It developed the science for the test in 2007, but this is the first year it's being used by physicians.

"There's never been a blood test that aids in neuropsychiatric disorders. This will be truly ground breaking," Ridge Diagnostics Chief Executive Officer Lonna Williams said.

For the test, the patient's blood sample is sent to a lab where technicians analyze it for biomarkers or physiological changes that occur when a patient is depressed. The samples are then ranked on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest likelihood for depression.

After taking the test, "Jane" was rated a 9, and she said it's helped with explaining her illness to family and friends.

"I was surprised at how high it was, but I wasn't surprised because I know how I feel inside," she said. "I wish I would have found out about it 15 years ago."

The test could be a helpful tool in identifying complicated and complex medical illness, according to Dr. John Oldham with the Menninger Clinic in Houston.

"You might be able to identify the early beginnings of a depressive episode with some of these markers beginning to look abnormal, and if that were to happen, then we might be able to get treatment onboard quickly," Oldham said.

Psychiatrists use the technology along with their clinical evaluations. They're finding most people like that the test confirms their feelings as an actual biological disorder.

The test should be available across the U.S. in about a year.

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