IUSM researchers develop app and blood test that can predict suicide risk

August 20, 2015

People being treated for bipolar disorder and other psychiatric illnesses are at greater risk of attempting suicide, but physicians may now have tools to predict which of those individuals will attempt it and intervene early to prevent such tragedies from occurring.

Alexander B. Niculescu III, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and medical neuroscience at the IU School of Medicine  and attending psychiatrist and research and development investigator at the Richard L. Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical CenterPhoto By

In the article, "Understanding and predicting suicidality using a combined genomic and clinical risk assessment approach," IU School of Medicine researchers reported this week in the Nature Publishing Group’s leading journal in psychiatry, Molecular Psychiatry, that they have developed blood tests and questionnaire instruments that can predict with more than 90 percent accuracy which of those patients will begin thinking of suicide, or attempt it.

Using RNA biomarkers from blood samples along with a newly developed questionnaire in the form of an app, the researchers were able to predict which individuals in a group of patients being seen for a variety of psychiatric illnesses would experience significant suicidal ideation with approximately 92 percent accuracy. Among patients with bipolar disorder, the accuracy reached 98 percent, said Alexander B. Niculescu III, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and medical neuroscience at the IU School of Medicine and attending psychiatrist and research and development investigator at the Richard L. Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The combination of biomarkers and app was also accurate in predicting which of the patients would be hospitalized for suicidality in the year following testing (71 percent across all diagnoses, 94 percent for bipolar disorder).

The questionnaires by themselves, implemented as apps on tablets, were able to predict the onset of significant suicidal thoughts with more than 80 percent accuracy.

Click here to read the full news release and learn more about this research.