IU Research: Biomarkers Could Help Prevent Suicide

Aug 17, 2017

New research helps identify people at risk for suicide using so-called biomarkers in blood tests. The study promotes what’s called precision medicine to help prevent suicide.

Indiana University School of Medicine researcher Alexader Niculescu’s years of research uses biology to determine who is more at risk of dying from suicide. He says it’s really no different then the work cardiologists do to prevent heart attacks.

“The same concept applies to suicide,” says Niculescu. “You know in some ways suicide is like a heart attack of the brain.”

Niculescu’s latest work builds on previous studies that identified biomarkers associated with suicidality. Researchers were able to describe four new subtypes of suicidality.

“There are some people who are suicidal because they have a lot of anxiety, some people because they are depressed, some people who are suicidal because they have psychotic thoughts,” says Niculescu.

The team was also able to identify new biomarkers.

Niculescu says past research has focused on at-risk groups and this study shows the tests could work for anyone.

“If you didn’t know about these different subtypes and you just tested anybody of any gender or diagnosis, with this combination of apps and universal biomarkers we have about a 90 percent accuracy at identifying who is in a high suicidal state,” Niculescu says.

The team was also able to identify medications and supplements that may help reduce suicide risk.

Nearly 1,000 people died by suicide last year in Indiana.