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July 02, 2003 02:48:24 PM PST, Reuters U.S. researchers using the newly published human gene map said on Wednesday they had identified 19 different genetic regions linked with depression. The findings could eventually lead to better treatments and screening for depression and related conditions, such as addiction, a leading cause of disability in the United States. Dr. George Zubenko, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and colleagues screened 81 families with members suffering from recurrent, early-onset, major depressive disorder, which runs in families. They found 19 regions on chromosomes that seem to be involved in the condition, they reported in the American Journal of Medical Genetics. Further work should be able to pinpoint the actual genes involved. The information could eventually lead to tailored treatments for depression, Zubenko said. "For example, individuals with particular genetic markers in these regions may respond better to particular current treatments than others," he said in a statement. Zubenko's team found some mutations seem to be sex-specific -- some for women and at least one for men. "Women are twice as likely as men to develop depression, and genetic differences appear to account for some of that disparity," Zubenko said. These could help explain why women seem more vulnerable to depression during puberty, pregnancy and childbirth and menopause, Zubenko said. They also noticed that people in families with these genetic changes tend to live shorter lives. People who had died in the 81 families were eight years younger when they died than the average for the general population, the researchers found. They found a five-fold increase in the proportion of babies who died in the first year of life and several-fold increases in deaths by suicide, murder and liver disease, although most of the deaths were from heart disease, cancer and stroke. The National Institute of Mental Health reported last month that 16 percent of Americans -- more than 30 million people -- will suffer major depression at some point in their lives, costing employers more than $30 billion in lost productivity.  

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