New Blood Tests for Panic Disorder

USA TODAY, October 2007 | Go to article overview

New Blood Tests for Panic Disorder


Blood tests for panic disorder and other mental health conditions potentially are around the corner, according to a study by the University of Iowa, Iowa City. The findings were based on analysis of genetic information in immature white blood cells. "The ability to test for panic disorder is a quantum leap in psychiatry," claims Robert Philibert, professor of psychiatry. "Panic disorder will no longer be a purely descriptive diagnosis, but, as with cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, and other conditions, a diagnosis based on genetic information. In addition, the finding could help us better understand the pathways that initiate, promote, and maintain panic disorder."

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The team compared gene expression in lymphoblasts (immature white blood cells) culled from participants with panic disorder and those without the disorder. The study found many genes were more expressed in people with panic disorder than in individuals without the condition. Similarly, many genes were less expressed in persons with panic disorder. There also were sex-related differences. Overall, people with panic disorder had noticeably different patterns of gene expression than individuals without the disorder. Although panic disorder is a disease of brain cells, the study used lymphoblasts as "stand-ins" for the genetic testing because brain cells are not accessible or easily tested. …

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