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A Blood Test for Anxiety? Count me in.

By Dr. Nicole Cain ND, MA

Researchers are Revolutionizing Anxiety Diagnosis and Treatment with Blood Biomarkers

Key Points:

Introduction

Anxiety disorders are a serious mental health condition that affects millions of people around the world—over 970 million according to the World Health Organization. They can cause a wide range of symptoms, including excessive worry, fear, and avoidance behavior. Anxiety disorders can significantly impact people’s lives, making it difficult to work, go to school, or maintain relationships.

In recent years, there has been growing interest in the use of blood biomarkers to diagnose and treat anxiety disorders. Biomarkers are measurable biological indicators that can be used to assess a person’s health. In the case of anxiety disorders, blood biomarkers could be used to identify people who are at risk for developing an anxiety disorder, explore what type of anxiety they have, monitor the severity of their symptoms, track their response to treatment, and even identify what treatments might work best.

This blog post will discuss the latest research on blood biomarkers for anxiety disorders. We will explore the potential benefits of using blood biomarkers to diagnose and treat anxiety disorders, and we will discuss some of the challenges that need to be addressed before blood biomarkers can be widely used in clinical practice.

Research Discovering Blood Biomarkers for Anxiety

Researchers at the University of Indiana School of Medicine used a meticulous four-step process to discover blood biomarkers for anxiety:

  1. Illuminating gene expression: They looked at how genes in the blood change when people are feeling anxious. They did this by comparing blood samples from people who said they were feeling low anxiety to blood samples from people who said they were feeling high anxiety.
  2. Converging functional genomics: They looked at the scientific literature to see what other researchers had found about genes and anxiety. This helped them to identify the most promising biomarkers, which are biological markers that can be used to measure anxiety.
  3. Validation: They checked to make sure that their biomarkers were actually linked to anxiety. They did this by testing them in a group of people with clinically severe anxiety.
  4. From discovery to clinical utility: They tested whether their biomarkers could be used to predict the severity of anxiety and whether they could be used to track how anxiety changes over time.

The Triumph of Personalization

Currently, there is no single blood test that can be used to diagnose anxiety disorders. This means that doctors often have to rely on self-reported symptoms and clinical judgment to make a diagnosis. This can be difficult, as anxiety disorders can manifest in a variety of ways—which can be distilled down into 8 primary types of anxiety, and people may not be aware of their symptoms or may be reluctant to talk about them.

The use of blood biomarkers could make it easier to diagnose anxiety disorders. This is because biomarkers are measurable biological indicators that can be used to assess a person’s health. If blood biomarkers can be reliably linked to anxiety disorders, then they could be used to screen people for these conditions, monitor the severity of symptoms, and track the response to treatment.

The discovery that personalized approaches can lead to heightened accuracy in identifying individual biomarkers is particularly important for women. This is because women report anxiety more commonly than men, and there are some differences in the way that anxiety disorders manifest in women and men. For example, women are more likely to experience anxiety disorders that are associated with physical symptoms, such as nausea, dizziness, and fatigue.

The ability to tailor treatments specifically to an individual’s needs is essential for effective mental health care. This is because everyone experiences anxiety disorders differently, and what works for one person may not work for another. By taking into account factors such as gender, diagnosis, and individual symptoms, doctors can better match patients with the right treatments.

This discovery is a significant step toward the goal of effective and personalized care for anxiety disorders. It has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people who are affected by these conditions.

Here are some additional benefits of using blood biomarkers to diagnose and treat anxiety disorders:

Key Biomarkers: Unlocking the Future of Anxiety Treatment

Among the biomarkers researchers identified, GAD1, NTRK3, ADRA2A, FZD10, GRK4, and SLC6A4 are the most promising. These molecular signatures have the potential to not only improve the accuracy of diagnosis but also help match patients with existing medications.

By pinpointing medications such as valproate, omega-3 fatty acids, fluoxetine, lithium, sertraline, benzodiazepines, and ketamine that target these biomarkers, the University of Indiana School of Medicine assert that we can guide treatment selection and evaluate response efficacy.

Beyond Boundaries: Repurposing for Anxiety Treatment

Their research unearthed potential repurposing opportunities for anxiety treatment. By scrutinizing the effects of certain drugs on the identified biomarkers, we discovered unexpected candidates such as estradiol, pirenperone, loperamide, and disopyramide. These medications, originally developed for different purposes, demonstrate the potential to alleviate anxiety based on their impact on their biomarker gene expression signature.

A Call to Action: Transforming Anxiety Treatment

Anxiety treatment needs to change. Current methods tend to be limited to antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and talk therapy, which for many are not good enough.

We need new ways to diagnose and treat anxiety that are more accurate, effective, and personalized. Our research is leading the way in this area. We are using blood biomarkers to develop new ways to diagnose and treat anxiety. This will help people get the help they need to live fulfilling and anxiety-free lives.

Conclusion

Anxiety disorders have been a problem for a long time, but research into blood biomarkers is giving us new hope. By carefully studying anxiety, researchers have learned a lot about it and have found some potential treatments.

Personalizing treatment based on a person’s gender and diagnosis can lead to more accurate diagnosis and better care. Using biomarkers like GAD1, NTRK3, ADRA2A, FZD10, GRK4, and SLC6A4, we can match patients with treatments that are actually effective.

Here are the key points summarized:

What’s next?

This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Whenever considering changing your protocol whether it includes a change of medications, supplements, diet or lifestyle, always speak with your primary care physician first.

Dr. Nicole Cain is an advocate for empowering people around the world to help themselves via her educational free resources, online courses, and membership group. You can receive the tools you need to find the root cause of your symptoms and feel healthy again.