Blood Testing May Identify Certain Psychological Disorders
> 3/9/2007 3:26:49 PM

In a minor breakthrough that could ultimately mean much more to the mental health community, researchers believe they have found a method to conduct blood tests to definitively determine whether a given patient suffers from panic disorder. In comparing the gene expression of white blood cells in the bodies of inviduals with panic disorder and those without, studies conducted at the University of Iowa found that certain genes were much more prominent in the cells of those individuals suffering from panic disorder, which affects 3% of the American population and can be defined as a condition involving at least one attack each month. Attacks are characterized by multiple variables such as accelerated heart rate, dizziness, chest and abdominal pains, and momentary confusion. While such disorders arise due to irregular brain functions, blood cells may sometimes be used in place of actual neurological material.

There's no question that inborn chemistry can increase the likelihood that a given individual will suffer from certain psychological disorders (such as alcoholism or other forms of substance abuse), and a study published in the same issue of the American Journal of Medical Genetics points to evidence of an inherited predisposition toward schizophrenia. The larger implications of this study imply that blood testing will allow for much earlier treatment to address future mental illnesses, but it is only a small step. A commercial product designed to test the blood for panic disorder is now being developed, and doctors hope that its successful application can lead to further research spreading to cover other ilnesses. The study's lead researcher states that, because of this discovery, panic disorder may "no longer be a purely descriptive diagnosis," based instead on physical observation. One can only hope that his research will encourage others to fund studies exploring the further applications of this process.

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