Blood Test Can Now Determine Suicide Risk

November 9, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. postmortem /ˌpoʊstˈmoɚtəm/ (adj.) – referring to anything that happens or occurs after death
Example: The experts will conduct a postmortem examination to the body to know what caused the man’s death.

2. regulate /ˈrɛg yəˌleɪt/ (v.) – to control something
Example: A person must regulate his sugar intake in order to avoid getting diabetes.

3. biomarker /ˈbaɪ oʊˌmɑr kər/ (n.) –  a trait that measures the effect or development of a disease
Example: The presence of biomarkers confirmed that the patient has diabetes.

4. vulnerability /vʌl nər əˈbɪl ɪ ti/ (n.) – the condition in which one can be easily affected or harmed
Example: He must overcome his vulnerability to illnesses.

5. tendency /ˈtɛn dən si/ (n.) – the probability or chance that something will happen or occur
Example: Patients have the tendency to panic when they go to the hospital.


Read the text below.
A recent study found a simple blood test that can help identify a person’s risk of committing suicide.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University looked into “SKA2,” a gene found at the frontal part of the brain that maintains levels of cortisol or stress hormones.

They studied about 150 postmortem brain samples of healthy people and those with mental illness, which included those who had committed suicide.

Those who died by suicide had significantly higher levels of cortisol in their body systems. This suggests that the SKA2 gene was not able to regulate the production and effects of the stress hormones.

The researchers then tested blood samples of more than 325 participants to check whether the same biomarker could determine those who were at greater risk of suicide. Just by looking at SKA2, they were 90% accurate when they predicted who among the participants have a high risk to commit suicide. Also, researchers were able to determine who had already attempted suicide with 96% accuracy rate.

According to Dr. Zachary Kaminsky [kuh-MIHNS-kee], research head and assistant professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, the team has discovered a genetic indicator of a person’s vulnerability to stress and depression—the SKA2 gene.

With the blood test, doctors and psychologists would be able to predict any suicidal thoughts and attempts of their patients. Consequently, experts would also be able to stop people before doing the act.

While further research is still needed, the researchers hope that the study will lead to consistent ways of determining a person’s suicidal tendencies.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you think this kind of test can be useful in your country? Why or why not?
·         How else can this test be useful?

Discussion B

·         What psychological disorders do you know of? Please briefly discuss them.
·         Do you think more studies should focus on psychological disorders? Why or why not?

November 9, 2014