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How do genetics factor with antidepressants?

Narrator: This is Science Today. Major depression is a common mental disorder and in the last few decades, there's been a revolution in the treatment for depression, primarily involving medication. But there is tremendous variability in how a person responds to medical treatment.

Hamilton : As a geneticist, when I see variability in something, one thing that I think about is whether genetics may play a role in that variability.

Narrator: Steve Hamilton, a psychiatrist and geneticist at the University of California, San Francisco, is analyzing the entire genetic codes of thousands of individuals. The goal is to try to identify common variations in human genes that may help determine whether depressed patients are likely to respond to a certain drug treatment.

Hamilton : Being able to do this will have several different possible outcomes. One, we may be able to develop a predictive profile of who will best benefit and not benefit from a drug such as this. If we were able to predict who's most likely to have a side effect, we can either prepare for it or consider other treatments, either drug treatments or non-drug treatments like psychotherapy.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.