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Identification of the SAT1 Gene as a Potential Biomarker for the Prediction of Suicide in Patients Suffering from Mood Disorders

8 August 2015


Background: Suicide is the consequence of a complex set of factors that results in devastation for a staggering number of people. Worldwide, suicide is responsible for over 800 000 deaths annually, while many more millions of survivors are left to cope with the repercussions of this tragedy. Despite the rampant prevalence and dire consequences, the medical community has yet to successfully establish an effective way for clinicians to anticipate a suicide attempt. However, researchers have recently identified several genes that appear altered in both suicide completers and patients suffering from suicidal ideation. These genes can be measured via RNA extraction from a sample of blood. The implications of this research are significant, for if a blood test can aid in the predication of suicide risk, clinicians may have a feasible tool to assist in the prevention of millions of deaths.

Methods: An exhaustive search of available medical literature was conducted using Medline-OVID, PsychINFO, and Web of Science using the keywords: suicide, SAT1, and acetyltransferase. The search was narrowed to include only English language and human study articles. The bibliographies of the articles were further searched for relevant sources. Articles with primary data evaluating SAT1 gene expression in subjects who completed suicide or experienced suicidal ideation were included.

Results: Four studies were ultimately included in this systematic review. All four studies demonstrated significantly altered levels of SAT1 gene expression in suicide victims compared to controls. Additionally, a cohort study demonstrated increased SAT1 gene expression in live patients reporting severe suicidal ideation. These authors further determined that live patients with increased SAT1 gene expression have increased rates of hospitalizations resulting from a suicide attempt.

Conclusion: Dysregulation of SAT1 gene expression appears to be associated with suicidal behavior, though it remains unknown why this link exists and the quality of available data is very low. At this time, applications for clinical practice are minimal. However, additional research is highly warranted, as these preliminary findings suggest that SAT1 gene expression may indeed act as a biomarker and could someday aid in the prediction of a patient’s susceptibility for suicide.

Keywords: Suicide, SAT1 gene


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