Skip to main content
Move the World.

Nearly 80 different genes have been linked to depression, thanks in part to a new study by researchers in the UK. The scientists analyzed the DNA and medical history of over 300,000 people in the UK Biobank to find connections between genes and severe depression, ultimately identifying 14 new genes that could contribute to the condition. The research will help doctors understand what causes different kinds of depression and, hopefully, lead to better treatments.

Common, Dangerous, and Hereditary: In the US, 16 million people (about 1 in 14 adults) suffer a major depressive episode each year. Major depression is linked to many other social and psychological problems, and, like most other features of our personality, it also has a big genetic component. Studies of identical twins raised separately show that depression is 37% heritable—meaning that if someone has major depression, her identical twin would have a 1 in 3 chance of sharing it.

The Study: Using DNA and medical histories from 300,000 people, the researchers tested over 7 million genetic variations for links to depression. They found least 16 genes, including 14 that had not been previously identified, bringing the total to around 80. The scientists then double checked their results using a completely different database (DNA shared anonymously by users of 23andMe), which confirmed almost all of their results.

How This Makes a Difference: Depression is a serious condition, and we know that DNA plays a big role in how and why it develops in some people. But now that we know what those genes are and, more importantly, what they are doing, this tells researchers where in the body to target medicines or other treatments. Ultimately, it’s possible that gene editing could allow us to reduce genetic predispositions for all sorts of conditions, including mental illness and depression, by targeting those genes directly. That's a prospect that should put a smile on all our faces.

Up Next

Dispatches
Supercharging Photosynthesis Can Grow 40% More Food
Supercharging Photosynthesis Can Grow 40% More Food
Dispatches
Supercharging Photosynthesis Can Grow 40% More Food
We need a lot more calories to feed a growing world, and these scientists may have figured out how to get them.
By Amanda Cavanagh

We need a lot more calories to feed a growing world, and these scientists may have figured out how to get them.

Dispatches
A Skin Graft Cures Cocaine Cravings (in Mice)
A Skin Graft Cures Cocaine Cravings (in Mice)
Dispatches
A Skin Graft Cures Cocaine Cravings (in Mice)
A CRISPR skin graft looks like a promising way to deliver gene therapy.
By Qingyao Kong

A CRISPR skin graft looks like a promising way to deliver gene therapy.

Meet the Amateur Astronomer Who Found a Lost NASA Satellite
Meet the Amateur Astronomer Who Found a Lost NASA Satellite
Watch Now
Meet the Amateur Astronomer Who Found a Lost NASA Satellite
A $130 million satellite vanished. Over a decade later, a blogger/astronomer found it.
Watch Now

Amateur astronomer Scott Tilley made international headlines when he rediscovered NASA’s IMAGE satellite, 13 years after it mysteriously disappeared. In this interview with Freethink, Scott discusses his role in the satellite’s recovery, why he enjoys amateur astronomy, and how citizen scientists like him have contributed to our knowledge of space from the space race to the present day.

Dispatches
Precision Medicine Cured an “Untreatable” Stage IV Breast Cancer
Precision Medicine Cured  an “Untreatable” Stage IV Breast Cancer
Dispatches
Precision Medicine Cured an “Untreatable” Stage IV Breast Cancer
Two years ago, she had two months to live.

Two years ago, she had two months to live.

Superhuman
Patients are Finding Relief from New Essential Tremors Treatment using Focused...
These Doctors are Performing Brain Surgery ... Using Sound
Watch Now
Superhuman
Patients are Finding Relief from New Essential Tremors Treatment using Focused...
Bonnie D'Ettorre suffers from a nerve disorder causing uncontrollable shaking. Doctors at Ohio State are about to "burn it out" using a thousand beams of ultrasound.
Watch Now

Patients stricken with “essential tremors” have their lives upended by this nerve disorder which causes uncontrollable shaking. But doctors at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are helping these patients find relief by “burning out” the problem-causing part of the brain with a high-intensity focused ultrasound. This miracle treatment significantly reduces tremors without the potential for complications posed...

On The Fringe
Growing Human Organs in Pigs
Growing Human Organs in Pigs
Watch Now
On The Fringe
Growing Human Organs in Pigs
Twenty people die every day in the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant. There aren’t enough organs for the 100,000...
Watch Now

Twenty people die every day in the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant. There aren’t enough organs for the 100,000 people waiting for one. And there likely never will be… unless we can find a better way to source them. Enter: the pigs. A team of scientists has figured out how to grow human organs in pigs. It might make you feel weird. But it also might save countless lives.

Adam Piore Introduces Us to Real Life Cyborgs
Our Cyborg Future is Coming (And That’s Not a Bad Thing)
Watch Now
Adam Piore Introduces Us to Real Life Cyborgs
Hollywood loves to sensationalize merging the body with advanced tech. But will it really be so bad?
Watch Now

Thinking about cyborgs in real life typically conjures thoughts of pop culture works like The Matrix. Terminator. Bladerunner. Hollywood loves to sensationalize merging the body with advanced tech. But will it really be so bad? We sat down with Adam Piore, author of The Body Builders: Inside the Science of the Engineered Human to discuss why we should stop freaking out and embrace our cyborg future. Spend any amount of time...

Superhuman
Brain Implant Gives Quadriplegic Movement
Brain Implant Gives Quadriplegic Movement
Watch Now
Superhuman
Brain Implant Gives Quadriplegic Movement
A brain implant connected to electrodes could offer hope to those who have lost function in their limbs.
Watch Now

A brain implant connected to electrodes could offer hope to those who have lost function in their limbs.A tragic diving accident while on vacation left Ian Burkhart unable to move most of his body. But a brain implant connected to electrodes on his arm restored his ability to move his fingers and could offer hope to those who have lost function in their limbs.

Wrong
The Y2K Bug is Going to Bite!
The Y2K Bug is Going to Bite!
Watch Now
Wrong
The Y2K Bug is Going to Bite!
Did we narrowly avoid the apocalypse because of some world-saving last minute de-bugging.
Watch Now

In the months and days leading up to the year 2000, many grew alarmed that a computer bug would collapse networks and bring down economies and global stability in its wake. Did we narrowly avoid the apocalypse because of some world-saving last minute de-bugging? Or was the worldwide panic just way off base?