Friday, March 9, 2007

A blood test for panic disorder

Researchers at the University of Iowa are now developing a blood test for commercial use that will examine the genetic expression of immature white blood cells to detect panic disorder.

How they came up with this: "The team compared gene expression in lymphoblasts (immature white blood cells) culled from 16 participants with panic disorder and 17 participants without the disorder. The study found many genes were more expressed in people with panic disorder than in people without the condition. Similarly, the study found many genes were less expressed in people with panic disorder. There were also sex-related differences.
Overall, people with panic disorder had noticeably different patterns of gene expression than people 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. "

Seems like an awfully small sample size, and there could be so many other confounding factors.

How will the information be used? The hope is that you could use this information to train and treat people with a predisposition for panic disorder to better manage and cope with it. The fear is that it could be used to deny people jobs, health coverage, or even social standing. Gattaca is closer than we think.

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