NEW YORK — In a key advance for the study of depression, a comprehensive scan of human DNA has turned up the apparent hiding places of more than a dozen genes linked to the disorder.

“This is a jumping-off point” for further work to reveal the biological underpinnings of depression, which in turn can guide development of new drugs, said Ashley Winslow, an author of a paper on the work.

Experts said the result is important not only for its specific findings, but also for its demonstration that the study’s approach can help uncover clues to the biology of depression, which is largely a mystery.

Such DNA scans are popular for finding genes that affect risk of diseases, but depression has proven largely resistant to this approach. In a rare and modest success reported last year, researchers turned up two places in the human DNA that appear to harbor genes affecting risk in a Han Chinese population.

But no evidence for that result appeared in people of European descent, which is the group studied in the more bountiful results announced Monday.

“What they’re showing is, we’re on the way” to finding many more genetic links, said Dr. Douglas Levinson of Stanford University. “They’ve shown that depression is tractable.”

He called the new results the most convincing evidence so far that such gene scans can pay off for depression.

The work by Winslow and others identified 15 areas of the human DNA – the “genome” – that show signs of harboring genetic variations that affect risk of becoming depressed. That indicates where scientists can focus on identifying and studying the affected genes, which in turn could reveal what processes go awry to raise the risk of the disease.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.