Molecular pathology of suicide. A postmortem study

Research output: PhD ThesisPhD thesis


Every one in five people has experienced suicidal ideations in their lives. Traditionally, it is presumed that, by comparing psychiatric suicides to non-psychiatric controls, researchers may reveal the neurobiology of suicide. However, although suicide-specific biomolecules are included in such a comparison, biomolecules related to the underlying psychiatric disorders will also be present. In addition, the majority of suicidal population who live in developing countries are not always able to receive their psychiatric diagnoses through mental health care. Furthermore, there are huge differences in gene expression between the living and postmortem human brains, so that many suicide-specific biomolecules may have decomposed with prolonged postmortem delay.
This thesis provided a roadmap for solving these puzzles. The first major finding is that suicide-related molecular alterations coexisted in different psychiatric disorders. Second, we introduced non-psychiatric and psychiatric euthanasia in the sample cohort. For the first time, molecular changes related to strong and intense suicidal ideations were visualized in the human brain, independent of the presence of underlying psychiatric disorders. Due to their short and precise postmortem delays, suicide-specific molecules are retained and detectable. Our concept of identifying suicide-specific biomolecules may result in novel therapeutic targets for suicidal populations in both developing and developed countries.
Original languageEnglish
  • Swaab, D.F., Promotor
  • Lucassen, P.J., Promotor, External person
Award date25 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2023


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