A study of thousands of people with bipolar disorder suggests that genetic risk factors may influence the decision to attempt suicide. Johns Hopkins scientists have identified a small region on chromosome 2 that is associated with increased risk for attempted suicide.

This small region contains four genes.  The researchers have found more than normal levels of the ACP1 protein in the brains of people who had committed suicide. This protein is thought to influence the same biological pathway as lithium, a medication known to reduce the rate of suicidal behavior.

In this study DNA samples from nearly 2,700 adults with bipolar disorder were taken. 1,201 of them were with a history of suicide attempts and 1,497 without. They found that those with one copy of a genetic variant were 1.4 times more likely to have attempted suicide than those without, and those with two copies were almost 3 times as likely.

The implications of this work are promising. It can be used for learning more about the biology of suicide and better suicide prevention efforts, by providing new directions for research and drug development and the medications used to treat patients who may be at risk.

By Ammara Hashmi