Last year, researchers in Sweden published a study linking suicide attempts to higher-than-usual levels of quinolinic acid, a neurotransmitter associated with inflammation.
Now, a team of scientists in Australia is using that finding to develop a blood test to measure levels of quinolinic acid in the blood.
Ostensibly, the test would function as a diagnostic tool to help doctors gauge a depressed person’s mental state–the higher the levels of the chemical, the more likely a patient is to attempt suicide.
But would a test like that actually help doctors prevent people from killing themselves? Maybe, but knowing that a patient may be prone to attempting suicide is not the same thing as preventing it from happening.
Arguably, the test will be more useful as a research tool than a diagnostic one–scientists could use it to probe the relationship between the body’s immune system and depression, and to further investigate the role of quinolinic acid in brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, autism and schizophrenia.