Johns Hopkins Logo For long it is believed that genes are involved in thinking about suicide and actually doing it. According to Johns Hopkins scientists, a small region on chromosome 2 raises the threat of attempting suicide. This small region allegedly contains four genes, including the ACP1 gene.

Those who commit suicide apparently have more than normal levels of the ACP1 protein in their brains. This protein supposedly influences the same biological pathway as lithium, a medication known to decrease the rate of suicidal behavior. During the study, experts examined DNA samples from over 2,700 adults with bipolar disorder, 1,201 of them with a history of suicide attempts and 1,497 without. Those with one copy of a genetic variant in the region of chromosome 2 where ACP1 is located possibly were 1.4 times more likely to have attempted suicide, and those with two copies were almost three times as likely.

“What’s promising are the implications of this work for learning more about the biology of suicide and the medications used to treat patients who may be at risk. Not everyone with bipolar disorder can take lithium because of its side effects. If we could give them another option, that would be fantastic,” quoted study leader Virginia L. Willour, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

In the course of the study, scientists replicated their findings in another group of samples. This group included DNA from more than 3,000 people with bipolar disorder. Then by means of DNA from people with bipolar disorder, mental illness was seemingly controlled. The study findings can supposedly open doors to better suicide prevention efforts by providing new directions for research and drug development. Further investigations will be triggered to replicate these findings and determine the exact biological mechanisms through which these genetic risk factors elevate the risk for suicidal behavior.

The study is published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.