If you are suffering from depression your body could be altering your mitochondrial DNA. A new study lead by scientists at the University of Oxford aimed to determine if there was a specific gene associated with depression.
According to Medical Daily, the study featured thousands of Chinese women suffering from severe depression, sometimes caused by adolescent sexual abuse.
When researchers compared the DNA of depression patients to that of a control group, they found that women who suffered from depression had more DNA in their mitochondria, the substance that converts food into energy for our cells.
Mitochondria increase in number when the body is under stress and in need of more energy.
According to lead researcher, Dr. Jonathan Flint:
We were surprised. So surprised it took us a long time to convince ourselves it was real.
The study also found the depressed women had shorter telomeres, the caps at the ends of chromosomes that keep them intact. Telomeres shorten as metabolism decreases with age.
Researchers put laboratory mice under stress for four weeks and they immediately noticed a change in their mitochondrial DNA and telomeres, IFL Science notes. The effects were only temporary. When the mice were placed in a non-stressful environment and given anti-stress hormones their DNA went back to normal.
The study suggests that the body responds to environmental stress with bouts of depression.
Dr. Flint and his team then pondered “how [molecular markers] change over time — before, during and after a depressive illness.”
The groups inferred a decrease in mitochondrial DNA and increase in telomere length should be the paramount effects of future anti-depressants.
The original study was published in the journal Current Biology.