Scientists have isolated a gene which could play an important role in causing depression and other mental health disorders.
New research from Yale University published in the medical journal Nature Medicine has shown that the gene MKP-1 may be responsible for deactivating a molecular pathway that is crucial to the survival and function of neurons.
This discovery was made following analysis of brain tissue samples of deceased depression sufferers, which found that MKP-1 levels were increased almost two-fold compared to healthy individuals.
The findings were reinforced by tests conducted among mice and could now establish the gene as a target for future therapeutic agents.
Ronald Duman, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Yale and senior author of the study, said: "This could be a primary cause, or at least a major contributing factor, to the signalling abnormalities that lead to depression."
According to Depression Alliance figures, the mental condition currently affects as many as one in five people in the UK.See all the latest jobs in Science