Monday, June 23, 2008

I’m Not Depressed; I’m Just Hypermethylated

In science, like in life, if you are lucky and you live long enough you will learn all of the things that you should have known in the first place.

I discovered this principle at boot-camp: for the first month we were scared out of our wits; the second month we slowly learned the ropes; the last two weeks we could get away with murder. The same thing happened in high school.

So now it appears that the scientists, god bless them, are on schedule to discover what is exactly malfunctioning in someone like me and what to do about it, scheduled to discover it two weeks before I die in twenty years. Thanks guys.

To be fair, they have been working on my problem and they have improved my life. The recent anti-depressant drugs, the Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors, really surprised me with their efficacy. Sure they’re not perfect, there are side effects, some people kill themselves, but I see a benefit. At least I stopped crying all the time, and I can get things done again.

That was all chemical research, old fashioned stuff. Now the DNA guys are getting in the act, and they’re getting some things figured out, they are. It’s all about the hippocampus, which is known to be influential in mood. Thanks to all of the wonderful suicide victims who so generously donated their brains to science we now know that the hippocampuses of these unfortunate people had suffered hypermethylization!

Some identifiable chemical mark, some kind of methyl group thing, had been added to the DNA. Lots and lots more in the suicide group than in the test group, who merely died in car accidents or something.

“Hypermethylation in the suicide group was not just a general difference,” says Dr Szyf, (no kidding, that’s his name, Mr. “Buy-A-Vowel”) “but rather a response to something specific, such as abuse suffered in childhood.”

I will look forward to the last thing I ever read on my deathbed being the report of the final triumph of science over depression.


Anonymous said...

Hypermethylation? Isn't that what makes Rapid-Shave Shaving Cream super-cool and smooth? Or is that the secret ingredient that makes KOOLS smoke "mild, mild, mild"?
Look, it's not so bad, living with depression. Look at some of the greats who did: Lincoln, Churchill, Kennedy. Sylvia Plath. Me. You.
You could have been a midget with depression. Or Black. Now *they* have reasons to be depressed that go beyond the chemical.
I always figured they would invent the Stop Aging Pill when I'm 90.
They will keep me around so ageless kids can feel the wrinkles in my face, and ask me if they hurt.

fred c said...

It's probably all three things. I got this from The Economist, May 8th print edition (on line), an article about "epigenetics" called "The Silencing of the Lambs."
I love Black folks but I thank god that I'm not one of them. See "Race Does Matter," recent post.
I know I'm lucky, I see what goes on, but I give up trying to change or just "get over it." I got used to it.

Anonymous said...

No one says you should change. Not I.

Anonymous said...

why do you single out depression for eradication? Why not mania? It can be just as destructive. And when did the ultimate goal in life become "Being Happy"?? The idiots in the institutions are all smiling.

fred c said...

Good points, touche! What is the ultimate goal of life, certainly not happiness, if that were true there'd be no progress. Maybe it's getting things done that are not completely unimportant without hurting people. Something like that. And thanks for the wake-up.