Inflammation chemical linked to suicide

MICHIGAN STATE (US) — Scientists report the first proof that a chemical in the brain called glutamate is linked to suicidal behavior—findings that offer new hope for prevention.

Writing in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, Michigan State University’s Lena Brundin and a team of co-investigators present the first evidence that glutamate is more active in the brains of people who attempt suicide.

Glutamate is an amino acid that sends signals between nerve cells and has long been a suspect in the search for chemical causes of depression.

“The findings are important because they show a mechanism of disease in patients,” says Brundin, an associate professor of experimental psychiatry in the College of Human Medicine. “There’s been a lot of focus on another neurotransmitter called serotonin for about 40 years now. The conclusion from our paper is that we need to turn some of that focus to glutamate.”

Brundin and colleagues examined glutamate activity by measuring quinolinic acid—which flips a chemical switch that makes glutamate send more signals to nearby cells—in the spinal fluid of 100 patients in Sweden. About two-thirds of the participants were admitted to a hospital after attempting suicide and the rest were healthy.

They found that suicide attempters had more than twice as much quinolinic acid in their spinal fluid as the healthy people, which indicated increased glutamate signaling between nerve cells. Those who reported the strongest desire to kill themselves also had the highest levels of the acid.

The results also showed decreased quinolinic acid levels among a subset of patients who came back six months later, when their suicidal behavior had ended.

The findings explain why earlier research has pointed to inflammation in the brain as a risk factor for suicide. The body produces quinolinic acid as part of the immune response that creates inflammation.

Brundin says anti-glutamate drugs are still in development, but could soon offer a promising tool for preventing suicide. In fact, recent clinical studies have shown the anesthetic ketamine—which inhibits glutamate signaling—to be extremely effective in fighting depression, though its side effects prevent it from being used widely today.

In the meantime, Brundin says physicians should be aware of inflammation as a likely trigger for suicidal behavior. She is partnering with doctors in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to design clinical trials using anti-inflammatory drugs.

“In the future, it’s likely that blood samples from suicidal and depressive patients will be screened for inflammation,” Brundin says. “It is important that primary health care physicians and psychiatrists work closely together on this.”

Source: Michigan State University

chat14 Comments


  1. Baron Pike

    So is inflammation the cause or the effect of suicidal depression?

  2. Michael

    Has SmithKline or one of their siblings put a patent on these substances yet?

  3. Bob Weyer

    You might research “glutamate and obesity” in your search engine and do some reading. There is much more to glutamates than just suicide.

  4. Gary c

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  5. Michael

    I’m interested in the connection with inflammation and suicide. Not obesity.

  6. Jill

    Interestingly, European researchers have been finding links between Toxoplasmosis and glutamate activity since the mid 2000’s. Also, researchers in the US are looking at possible links between Toxoplasmosis and suicide, anxiety, depression and schizophrenia
    500,000,000 people worldwide are estimated to carry the parasite as of 1996 according to the article Denkers EY, Gazzinelli RT. Regulation and function of T-cell-mediated immunity during Toxoplasma gondii infection. Clin Microbiol Rev. 1998;11:569-588.
    Scary eh?

  7. Jill

    Gary – do you work for Rock Creek? I did see that there are safety trials starting up soon but I was unable to locate a John Hopkins trial. Also, I do have issues with a safety trial that looks at 3 months of total use to determine that a product is safe for humans to use. But that is not a Rock Creek issue… but a governmental issue.

  8. Gary c

    Jill – I do not work for Rock Creek and have no affiliation other than using their product daily for the past 14 months. It has changed my life by simply down regulating chronic inflammation to the point that I no longer suffer from low back pain, arthritis pain in my hands and shoulders completely eliminated, and my CRP-hs is lowered from 3.78mg/dLto .02mg/dL. See and search anatabine

  9. Gary c

    See Dr. Ladenson at Johns Hopkins and here

    Anatabine Ameliorates Experimental Autoimmune Thyroiditis
    Endocrinology 2012 153: 4580-4587

    The study results expected to be announced Dec ’12

  10. Jill

    Hi Gary – Thanks for sharing. I didn’t see this study listed on the – maybe because it had completed(?). Looked at the results though & forwarded to a friend who has ulcerative colitis and is a rabid non smoker. Maybe they’ll look into that connection next.
    Inflammation is everywhere these days.

  11. Gary c

    Hi Jill – Many have reported real relief from colitis for the first time from Anatabloc. There’s a women urbandomesticdiva who blogged over several months about her experience with the condition and how she was able to experience real relief by safely lowering inflammation . See other testimonials at GNC, FB, about the nutraceutical anatabloc. All anecdotal I know, that’s why the human trials are so important. Rare for a nutraceutical to undergo trials by major medical research institutes. Also search ‘Flint Study’.

  12. Joey

    Maybe they’ll look into that connection next.

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