Taking Depression to Heart

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A blood sample could help identify increased risk for depression in people with heart disease.
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Coronary heart disease is a leading cause of death worldwide. Depressive symptoms affect up to 45% of these patients.

Over the last century, one of our greatest medical achievements has been preventing and treating infectious diseases. As life expectancies have increased, now heart disease has become the top killer worldwide.

The most common form of heart disease is known as coronary heart disease—a condition that arises when arteries supplying blood to the heart become clogged.

Around half of all people with coronary artery disease also experience depression—a rate that is much greater than in the general population. While depression can affect whether these patients complete their rehabilitation and reduce their chance of survival, there is currently little understanding of the reason for depression in these patients.

With this in mind, Dr. Krista Lanctôt and her team of researchers set out to find ways to characterize depression in patients with coronary artery disease with the goal of identifying future targets.

To do this, they looked at a special class of fat molecules in the body known as phospholipids. These molecules are one of the fundamental building blocks of our cells. Phospholipids come in many shapes and sizes, and abnormalities in the function of these molecules have been previously linked to depression.

The research team collected blood samples from patients with coronary artery disease and profiled the various types of phospholipids in their red blood cells. They discovered that the levels of specific phospholipids were different between coronary artery disease patients with depression and those without depression.

“Based on these measurements, we selected ten phospholipids in order to create a predictive model that can distinguish between coronary artery disease patients with and without significant symptoms of depression,” explains Parco Chan, who completed his master’s degree under Dr. Lanctôt’s supervision.

While additional studies are required to establish a definitive link between this phospholipid profile and depression in coronary artery disease patients, these findings provide a better understanding of depression in these patients. “The profile could also be an important step in designing personalized treatments,” comments Dr. Lanctôt, “thereby reducing the devastating impacts of coronary artery disease.”

This work was supported by the Ontario Mental Health Foundation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Chan P, Suridjan I, Mohammad D, Herrmann N, Mazereeuw G, Hillyer LM, Ma DWL, Oh [no-lexicon]PI[/no-lexicon], Lanctôt KL. Novel phospholipid signature of depressive symptoms in patients with coronary artery disease. J Am Heart Assoc. 2018 May 5. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.117.008278.