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Myriad Genetics Publishes Depression Gene Discovery

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Myriad Genetics, Inc. has announced that its discovery of the Apoptosis Protease Activating Factor 1 (Apaf-1) gene for major depression has been published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, and is available online.

The Apaf-1 gene was discovered using large families from Utah that contain multiple cases of major depressive disorder.

The evidence presented in the study supports a hypothesis that increased destruction of brain cells through apoptosis leads to major depression in individuals with specific variations in the Apaf-1 gene.

The discovery has important implications for the development of a class of drugs to treat depression, a common and devastating disease.

“We are very excited by the potential of the Apaf-1 gene discovery to lead to new therapeutics for the treatment of depression,” said Peter Meldrum, President and Chief Executive Officer of Myriad Genetics, Inc.

“There is a real need for novel, more effective therapies to treat this debilitating illness.”

The Apaf-1 gene makes the (Apaf-1) protein. This protein is an activator of a cascade of events leading to the destruction of a cell.

Certain forms of the gene, that were found to be over-represented in families with major depression, cause a gain of function, leading to increased cell death.

It is this cell death increase that is involved in the cause of major depressive disorder, a hypothesis proposed by Myriad researchers and their collaborators in this paper.

Gain of function variants (mutations) that cause disease are of special interest to drug developers because it is often far easier to block the action of a rogue protein rather than to restore a function that has been lost.

For this reason, Myriad's drug development scientists believe that molecules that inhibit Apaf-1 and its resulting brain cell self-destruction (apoptosis) may provide the source of a class of drugs to treat major depressive disorder.

Myriad has filed applications for U.S. and foreign patents covering the Apaf-1 gene and its use in the diagnosis and treatment of depression.

The study, entitled “Variants in Apaf-1 Segregating with Major Depression Promote Apoptosome Function,” is to be published in the scientific journal, Molecular Psychiatry, Vol. 10, issue 11, November 2005.