The Biomarkers in Depression Study (BIODEP) is the Consortium’s first clinical study, involving volunteers both with and without depression. The study is a collaboration between 5 UK universities and 4 pharmaceutical companies. The aim of the study is to find biomarkers for depression.

Biomarkers (Biological Markers) are A naturally occurring molecule, gene, or characteristic by which a particular pathological or physiological process, disease, etc. can be identified.” For example, body temperature is a well-known biomarker for fever.

Human CRP. Molecular model of human C-reactive protein (CRP) showing its structure. The levels of this protein in the plasma increase greatly in response to tissue damage and inflammation. It is measured in clinical tests as a marker for inflammation and infection. Credit: T. Greenhough & A. Shrive. CC by NCD 4.0

In the study, we will be collecting blood and saliva samples. These will be analysed to look for genetic biomarkers, as well as other measures of the body’s immune system, such as C-reactive protein (CRP). We will also look at magnetic resonance images (MRI) of the brain to see if there are differences between people with more or less inflammation in the body.

Some people will go on to have further brain imaging – a positron emission topography (PET) scan which uses a radioactive tracer to look at activity in the brain.

https://wellcomecollection.org/works/f36k8fwy?query=B0009901&wellcomeImagesUrl=/ixbin/hixclient.exe?MIROPAC=B0009901
B0009901 Neurotransmitter in limbic areas of a human brain, PET
Credit: Dr Jim Myers, Imperial College London. CC by NCD 4.0

Some people will opt to come in for Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) sampling. CSF is the clear, colourless fluid which surrounds the brain and spinal cord. This fluid can be sampled in a procedure called a lumbar puncture which can then be analysed to look at the chemicals which surround the brain itself. This will give critical information about the effect of inflammation on the brain

Take part in our first clinical study – BIODEP