Researchers say they've found a link between low blood levels of a chemical and depression, opening the door for potential new diagnostic tests and treatment.
A recent study showed lower levels of an animo, acetyl-L-carnitine (LAC), in the blood of people who have depression, compared to those who don't. In fact, they found the lower the levels of the chemical, the more severe the depression. The findings build on previous studies done in mice, which also showed a link between LAC levels and depression.
LAC is naturally-produced in the human body, involved in metabolism and energy production. It can also work with DNA to change how certain genes are expressed.
LAC is available as a dietary supplement, but the study's authors warn against going out and buying it as a depression treatment until they can conduct more research.
Experts say if further studies prove LAC is indeed a biomarker, or a measurable indicator of disease in the body, it could be used to screen for and treat severe and medically-resistant forms of depression.
The CDC says around 16 million U.S. adults are affected by the condition each year.