Science  23 Aug 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6148, pp. 827

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  1. A Blood Test for Suicide?

    What if a psychiatrist could tell whether someone was about to commit suicide by sampling their blood? That's the potential promise of a study of blood samples from nine men with bipolar disorder, taken while they were reporting suicidal thoughts. After comparing these blood samples to others taken when the men did not report feeling suicidal, researchers identified five proteins that they say indicate higher risk of imminent suicide.

    Previous studies showed several of those proteins in higher-than-normal amounts in the blood of people who died from suicide. When combined with psychological measures of anxiety and mood, the presence of these proteins was 80% predictive of future hospitalization for suicide in bi polar patients, the authors report this week in Molecular Psychiatry.

    The small study needs to be replicated in larger and more diverse populations, and "it's unlikely these markers are specific" to the complex behavior of suicide, says lead author Alexander Niculescu III, a psychiatrist at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. Instead, they are likely to indicate contributing factors, such as abnormal cellular function and stress.