Summary: Researchers discovered plasma protein-based biomarkers that could predict mental health risks in adolescents. These markers offer a potential for early detection of mental health issues, which currently afflict 10-20% of adolescents, largely undiagnosed and untreated.
Bioinformatic analyses identified the biological processes linked with these proteins, opening the door for further advancements in mental health care. This promising research could lead to a new era of early detection and prevention in youth mental health.
The research identified 58 proteins significantly associated with mental health risks in adolescents, as assessed by self-reported Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) scores.
The biological processes linked with these proteins were found to include immune responses, blood coagulation, neurogenesis, and neuronal degeneration.
This pilot study paves the way for further exploration of these biomarkers as tools for early identification of individuals at risk of mental health issues.
Source: University of Eastern Finland
Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland have identified plasma protein-based biomarkers capable of identifying adolescents at risk of developing mental health issues.
The results were published in Nature Mental Health.
An estimated 10-20% of adolescents struggle with mental health conditions, with the majority remaining undiagnosed and untreated.
New, early indicators of mental health problems are urgently needed, as they could revolutionize early detection and, in the future, the prevention of mental health problems in young individuals.
In the study carried out in the research group of Professor Katja Kanninen, the researchers used self-reported Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) scores to evaluate mental health risk in participants aged between 11 and 16 years.
Blood sample analyses showed that 58 proteins were significantly associated with the SDQ score. Bioinformatic analyses were used to identify the biological processes and pathways linked with the identified plasma protein biomarker candidates.
Key enriched pathways related to these proteins included immune responses, blood coagulation, neurogenesis, and neuronal degeneration.
The study employed a novel symbolic regression algorithm to create predictive models that best separate low and high SDQ score groups.
According to Professor Kanninen, plasma biomarker studies in mental disorders are an emerging field.
“Alterations in plasma proteins have been previously associated with various mental health disorders, such as depression, schizophrenia, psychotic disorders, and bipolar disorders.
“Our study supports these earlier findings and further revealed that specific plasma protein alterations could indicate a high risk for mental dysfunction in adolescents,” Professor Kanninen notes.
According to the researchers, this pilot study will be followed by more specific investigations of the potential biomarkers for identification of individuals at risk of mental health problems, opening a new avenue for advancements in adolescent mental health care.
Plasma proteomics discovery of mental health risk biomarkers in adolescents
An estimated 10–20% of adolescents experience mental health conditions, and most of them remain underdiagnosed and undertreated. Discovering new susceptibility biomarkers is therefore important for identifying individuals at high risk of developing mental health problems, and for improving early prevention.
Here we aimed to discover plasma protein-based susceptibility biomarkers in children/adolescents aged 11–16 years at risk of developing mental health issues.
Risk was evaluated on the basis of self-reported Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) scores, and plasma proteomic data were obtained for individuals participating in the Spanish WALNUTs cohort study by liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry.
Bioinformatic analyses were performed to identify the biological processes and pathways in which the identified biomarker candidates are involved; 58 proteins were significantly associated with the SDQ score.
The most prominent enriched pathways related to these proteins included immune responses, blood coagulation, neurogenesis and neuronal degeneration.
This exploratory study revealed several alterations of plasma proteins associated with the SDQ score in adolescents, which opens a new avenue to develop novel susceptibility biomarkers to improve early identification of individuals at risk of mental health problems.