Gene in African Americans linked to depression

Scientists discovered a gene in African Americans that increase their risk of depression and alcoholism. 

Previous evidence has linked depression and alcoholism to similar genes and risk factors in the brain.

But researchers took this one step further by analyzing the genetic codes of African Americans and European Americans to see if they could determine the specific gene that leads to these disorders.

They found that SEMA3A, a neurological gene previously associated with diseases such as Alzheimer’s, was disrupted in African Americans with dependency problems, which could pave the way towards a cure.

Experts have found a gene that is linked to alcoholism and depression in African Americans. They say this can help lead to a cure for the disorders (file photo) 

Researchers from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia studied 7,822 individuals of European Americans and African American backgrounds who had dependency problems. 

The study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, aimed to find if there was a connection to the genetic code and dependency disorders.

In the past, it has been found that some people with depression tend to develop alcoholism and vice versa because they have similar effects on the mind. 

‘Alcohol dependence and MD (depression) often co-occur owing, in part to shared genetic risk factors,’ the authors wrote. 

The researchers studied the genetic codes of 4,653 African Americans and 3,169 European Americans to see if they differed in terms of alcoholism and depression.

After analyzing the genes of all the individuals, the researchers found that SEMA3A was linked to alcoholism and depression.

This gene was found disrupted in African Americans who had depression or alcoholism, but not in European Americans.

Researchers do not yet know what in the genetic code makes it so that this disruption only impacts African Americans.  

SEMA3A is a gene variant involved in brain development and neuron connectivity. 

Previous evidence has connected the gene with traits relating to people developing schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy.

About three percent of Americans aged 12 and up had severe depression symptoms between 2009 and 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Also, an estimated 14 million adults are dependent or abuse alcohol. 

Experts say that discovering where these disorders occur on the genetic code is a positive step towards treated people with these dependencies.