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Monday, September 19, 2011

Genes found with links to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder

For those wondering about this blog's Being Bipolar series, I haven't stopped it at all. Just been trying to figure out what to write about next: something that I've changed my mind about something around 18 or 19 times now. 'Course, having bipolar disorder can sometimes be the worst impediment to writing about it, ironically. Hoping to write the next installment sometime this week or next.

In the meantime though, new research has been published about a possible cause of bipolar disorder, as well as schizophrenia...

Broad sweeps of the human genome have exposed genetic mutations that boost the risk of the devastating yet baffling diseases of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to two studies published Sunday.

The independent studies, each conducted by a consortium of about 200 scientists, also found significant genetic overlap between the debilitating mental disorders.

Schizophrenia patients typically hear voices that are not real, tend toward paranoia and suffer from disorganized speech and thinking. The condition is thought to affect about one percent of adults worldwide.

Previously known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is characterised by hard-to-control mood swings that veer back-and-forth between depression and euphoria, and afflicts a similar percentage of the population.

The biological profile of both conditions remain almost entirely unknown. Doctors seek to hold them in check with powerful drugs.

Scientists have long observed that each syndromes tends to run in families, suggesting a powerful inherited component.


For the study on bipolar disorder, also appearing in Nature Genetics, a team led by Pamela Sklar of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York first looked at the genomes of 7,481 patients and 9,250 healthy individuals.

A second sweep focusing on 34 DNA suspects involved some 2,500 other patients and 42,500 controls.

The study confirmed a significant link with a gene, CACNA1C, that also has been previously associated with schizophrenia.

It also uncovered a new gene variant at another location, known as ODZ4, that suggests neurochemical channels in the brain activated by calcium play a role in boosting the risk of developing the disease.

For both studies, scientists hope that learning more about pathways in the brain affected by the diseases can lead to a better understanding of the causes and drugs to ease or block the symptoms.

I would seriously like to have somebody put the genes of my own family under the microscope. As I've said before on this blog, the symptoms of bipolar disorder run in my family, even though so far as I know I'm the first to be medically diagnosed with the condition. I've got it and my grandmother and her father probably had it (though my own Dad has never exhibited the symptoms, thankfully).

The optimistic part of me really wants this to lead to more effective medication for bipolar and schizophrenia. It might take decades. In fact, it most likely will. But I'd love to within my lifetime be able to see that nobody would ever again have to endure the hell that this particular brand of mental illness has put me and my loved one through.

Reading about this research, I can't but feel excited :-)