According to Nature, the researchers searched for so-called “biomarkers” related to suicidal behaviors. The first step was to identify nine men with bipolar disorder who went from having no suicidal thoughts to later scoring high on a test for suicide risk. Blood tests on these men revealed 41 potential molecular markers that may have been involved in the increase in suicidal thoughts.
For the next step, the journal Science recounts, the selected markers were compared to markers detected in blood samples from nine bipolar men who had recently committed suicide. This narrowed down the list of potential markers. Further review boiled down the potential biomarkers to one. The strongest predictor of suicide was a protein encoded by the gene SAT1. The gene had previously been found to increase in response to exposure to toxins, infection, and lack of oxygen.
The idea of a full-blown “blood test for suicide” remains a long way off. However, study author Alexander Niculescu thinks that such a test will one day be possible, as indicated in an interview with Forbes.
The findings have been published in a paper for the journal Molecular Psychiatry. The paper is titled “Discovery and validation of blood biomarkers for suicidality.”