A newly identified biomarker linked to mental illness in female psychiatric patients could lead the way for a simple blood test for improved interventions and treatment, according to a study in EBioMedicine.

The gene XIST is responsible for inactivating one of the two copies of the X chromosome in cells that store genetic material. However, overproduction has been found in female patients with mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder (MDD), and schizophrenia. Lead author Xianjin Zhou, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, and colleagues analyzed 60 lymphoblastoid cell lines from female patients, most of whom had a family history of mental illness.

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About half of the female patients had abnormally higher levels of XIST and other genes related to the X chromosomes, which could indicate that overproduction of XIST and genes from the inactive X chromosome are common denominators in the development of psychiatric disorders in patients with rare chromosome disorders and in the general population of female psychiatric patients. If these results are duplicated, a blood test may be developed for early diagnosis and treatment of mental illness.

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