Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) levels as a possible predictor of psychopathology in healthy twins at high and low risk for affective disorder

Vinberg M, Miskowiak K, Kessing LV

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2014 Jan;39:179-83


Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is a potential biomarker of affective disorder. However, longitudinal studies evaluating a potential predictive role of BDNF on subsequent psychopathology are lacking. The aim of this study was to investigate whether BDNF alone or in interaction with the BDNF Val66Met polymorphism predict onset of affective disorder in healthy individuals at heritable risk for affective disorder. In a high-risk study, we assessed whole blood levels of BDNF in 234 healthy monozygotic and dizygotic twins with or without a co-twin history of affective disorder (high and low risk twins, respectively). Participants were followed up longitudinally with questionnaires at 6-month intervals for mean seven years and then reassessed with a personal interview to obtain information about whether they had developed psychiatric illness. At follow-up 36 participants (15.4%) had developed psychiatric disorder. Cox regression analysis revealed that BDNF levels at baseline were not associated with onset of illness in this explorative study. Further, two-way interactions between BDNF levels and the Val66Met polymorphism or between familial risk and the Val66Met polymorphism did not predict illness onset.

The effect of recombinant erythropoietin on plasma brain derived neurotrophic factor levels in patients with affective disorders: a randomised controlled study

Vinberg M, Miskowiak K, Hoejman P, Pedersen M, Kessing LV

PLoS One. 2015 May 26;10(5):e0127629

The study aims to investigate the effect of repeated infusions of recombinant erythropoietin (EPO) on plasma brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels in patients with affective disorders. In total, 83 patients were recruited: 40 currently depressed patients with treatment-resistant depression (TRD) (Hamilton Depression Rating Scale-17 items (HDRS-17) score >17) (study 1) and 43 patients with bipolar disorder (BD) in partial remission (HDRS-17 and Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) ≤ 14) (study 2). In both studies, patients were randomised to receive eight weekly EPO (Eprex; 40,000 IU) or saline (0.9% NaCl) infusions in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel–group design. Plasma BDNF levels were measured at baseline and at weeks 5, 9 and at follow up, week 14. In contrast with our hypothesis, EPO down regulated plasma BDNF levels in patients with TRD (mean reduction at week 9 (95% CI): EPO 10.94 ng/l (4.51-21.41 ng/l); mean increase at week 9: Saline 0.52 ng/l, p=0.04 (-5.88-4.48 ng/l) p=0.04, partial ŋ2=0.12). No significant effects were found on BDNF levels in partially remitted patients with BD (p=0.35). The present effects of EPO on BDNF levels in patients with TRD point to a role of neurotrophic factors in the potential effects of EPO seen in TRD and BD. The neurobiological mechanisms underlying these effects and the interaction between EPO and peripheral levels on BDNF need to be further elucidated in human studies including a broad range of biomarkers.