A Longitudinal Study of Inflammatory Pathways in Depression

  • End date
    Jun 30, 2024
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Van Andel Research Institute
Updated on 5 April 2021


Suicide accounts for at least 1 million deaths globally each year. This is likely a significant underestimate, because suicide is under-reported in many countries. In the US, over 42,000 people die from suicide annually. Despite increased focus on identification and treatment, the rate of suicide has increased steadily over the past 15 years.

Our project aims both to improve our understanding of factors that increase the risk for suicide by comparing blood biomarkers associated with inflammation in patients with depression without suicidal behavior and patients with depression and suicidal behavior. The 160 individuals in this study will be followed with psychiatric assessments and blood samples at repeated time points over one year.


Suicide is a leading cause of death in the US, and its rate continues to increase. Most individuals who die by suicide are in contact with health care, but clinical risk assessment is challenging. Inflammatory biomarkers have tentatively been linked to suicide. However, longitudinal studies establishing their accuracy in tracking suicidal behavior and critical symptoms are lacking. This study is a longitudinal study, with 1,280 total assessments planned, measuring suicidal ideation and behavior, associated clinical symptoms and blood biomarkers of inflammation.

Our overriding aim is to identify a set of biomarkers that distinguish patients with suicidal behavior from depressive patients without suicidal behavior. Further, the investigators intend to define biomarkers that are elevated during active suicidal behavior (at- risk periods) within the same patients (longitudinally).

Our working model is that inflammation (via pro-inflammatory cytokines) induces the kynurenine pathway, leading to an increased production of neurotoxic kynurenine metabolites (i.e., the NMDA-receptor agonist quinolinic acid, or others), which trigger suicidal behavior. The Investigators predict that immunomodulatory cells and molecules, including cytokines and kynurenine metabolites in plasma, may constitute biomarkers of suicidal behavior. The Investigators also predict that elevated inflammatory markers in suicidal individuals will be associated with epigenetic changes, regulating the expression of kynurenine enzymes in blood cells.

  1. Establish biomarkers that indicate risk for active suicidal behavior;
  2. Determine epigenetic markers in the blood of patients with suicidal behavior.

In Aim 1, the investigators will enroll patients with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and active suicidal behavior (planning or attempts), and MDD patients without current or past suicidal behavior. Each subject will be assessed at eight time-points over one year. The Investigators will measure interleukins and acute phase reactants as well as tryptophan, serotonin and metabolites of the kynurenine pathway in peripheral blood.

For aim 2, the investigators will perform whole-genome methylation analysis using Illumina EPIC arrays, followed by gene pathway analyses, in blood of the enrolled patients.

Our project will aid the implementation of biomarkers in clinical care for patients with suicide risk, in order to enable intensified intervention during critical time-points. The biological insight obtained here can guide therapeutic development specifically targeting suicidality, with the ultimate goal of reducing suicide numbers.

Condition Major depression, Endogenous depression, Suicide attempt, major depressive disorder, major depressive disorders
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04159207
SponsorVan Andel Research Institute
Last Modified on5 April 2021


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Men and women ages 18 years and older will be included in the study
who are diagnosed with MDD by SCID but do not endorse current or past suicidal behaviors
who are diagnosed with MDD by SCID and endorse current suicidal behavior as defined by C-SSRS (preparatory acts, aborted or interrupted attempts, as well as completed attempts)
English speaking
Willing and able to take part of the different steps in the study, including follow-up interviews and blood draws

Exclusion Criteria

Vulnerable populations (e.g. incarcerated individuals)
Subjects with dementia or otherwise cognitively impaired subjects with difficulty understanding the study procedures
Patients with a primary psychiatric diagnosis other than MDD
Patients with an active somatic disorder primarily involving the immune system (autoimmune diseases such as Crohns disease, multiple sclerosis, or rheumatoid arthritis; or hematological diseases such as lymphoma or leukemia)
Patients on chronic and systemic immunomodulatory treatment. Examples are patients with a liver- or kidney transplant or medications used for disorders involving the immune system, as mentioned above. Examples of immunomodulatory treatments are cyclosporin, azathioprine, infliximab, corticosteroid treatment
Patients undergoing active treatment for any form of cancer (chemotherapy or immunomodulatory treatments)
Clear my responses

How to participate?

Step 1 Connect with a study center
What happens next?
  • You can expect the study team to contact you via email or phone in the next few days.
  • Sign up as volunteer to help accelerate the development of new treatments and to get notified about similar trials.

You are contacting

Investigator Avatar

Primary Contact



Additional screening procedures may be conducted by the study team before you can be confirmed eligible to participate.

Learn more

If you are confirmed eligible after full screening, you will be required to understand and sign the informed consent if you decide to enroll in the study. Once enrolled you may be asked to make scheduled visits over a period of time.

Learn more

Complete your scheduled study participation activities and then you are done. You may receive summary of study results if provided by the sponsor.

Learn more

Similar trials to consider


Browse trials for

Not finding what you're looking for?

Every year hundreds of thousands of volunteers step forward to participate in research. Sign up as a volunteer and receive email notifications when clinical trials are posted in the medical category of interest to you.

Sign up as volunteer

user name

Added by • 



Reply by • Private

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur, adipisicing elit. Ipsa vel nobis alias. Quae eveniet velit voluptate quo doloribus maxime et dicta in sequi, corporis quod. Ea, dolor eius? Dolore, vel!

  The passcode will expire in None.

No annotations made yet

Add a private note
  • abc Select a piece of text from the left.
  • Add notes visible only to you.
  • Send it to people through a passcode protected link.
Add a private note