Genetic Blood Test May Predict Suicidal Behaviors Interview with:
Zachary A. Kaminsky, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Department of Psychiatry
Baltimore, MD, 21205

Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Kaminsky: A DNA methylation increase at the SKA2 gene was identified and observed across three post mortem brain tissue cohorts and was associated with suicide. The DNA methylation at the SKA2 gene was associated with lower gene expression of the gene. The same association was found in blood allowing us to attempt to predict suicidal behaviors in living individuals.

Medical Research: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Kaminsky: We were surprised first at the degree to which our associations replicated across numerous groups of individual brain cohorts and secondly that these associations continued to be observed in the blood, allowing prediction of suicidal behavior from peripheral markers.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Kaminsky: We’ve identified that the SKA2 gene is an interesting new player in the field of epigenetics and psychiatry. Epigenetic variation at this gene appears to be associated with suicide.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Kaminsky: Future research should both validate this finding in larger prospective cohorts as well as to take advantage of the peripherally measurable epigenetic variation to begin to perform neuroimaging epigenetic studies, IE: attempting to link epigenetic changes with variation we observe in the brain in terms of brain activity and connectivity between regions in response to various stimuli.


Jerry Guintivano, Tori Brown, Alison Newcomer, Marcus Jones, Olivia Cox, Brion S. Maher, William W. Eaton, Jennifer L. Payne, Holly C. Wilcox, Zachary A. Kaminsky. Identification and Replication of a Combined Epigenetic and Genetic Biomarker Predicting Suicide and Suicidal Behaviors. American Journal of Psychiatry, 2014; DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2014.14010008


Last Updated on December 21, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD