Researchers at the University of Leeds investigating the genetic causes of bipolar disorder have identified two new drugs = one of which has already been found safe in clinical trials - that may be effective in treating the disorder. Bipolar disorder is characterised by mood swings between mania and depression. Like autism, it is thought to be a spectrum of disorders and, although its causes are not well understood, it seems to run in families and is thought to be caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Dr Steve Clapcote, of the Institute of Membrane and Systems Biology at the University of Leeds, who led the study, says: "We suspected from published studies of bipolar patients that levels of enzymes known as NKA or sodium pumps may be abnormal in bipolar disorder, but so far the evidence has not been convincing enough to warrant detailed clinical investigations.
In the first study to systematically investigate genome-wide epigenetic differences in a large number of psychosis discordant twin-pairs, research at the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at King's College London provides further evidence that epigenetic processes play an important role in neuropsychiatric disease. Published in Human Molecular Genetics, the findings may offer potential new avenues for treatment. Previous quantitative genetic analyses of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder reveal strong inherited components to both. However, although heritability for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder is estimated at 70%, disease concordance between twin-pairs is far from 100%, indicating that non-genetic factors play an important role in the onset of the diseases. Dr. Jonathan Mill, lead author of the study at the IoP says, 'We studied a group of 22 identical twin-pairs, so 44 individuals in all, one of the largest twin studies performed for any complex disease to date.
A team of over 250 researchers from more than 20 countries have discovered that common genetic variations contribute to a person's risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The study of more than 50, 000 adults ages 18 and older provides new molecular evidence that 11 DNA regions in the human genome have strong association with these diseases, including six regions not previously observed. The researchers also found that many of these DNA variants contribute to both diseases. The findings, reported by the Psychiatric Genome-Wide Association Study Consortium and published online in two papers in the journal Nature Genetics, represent significant advances in the understanding the causes of these chronic, severe, and debilitating disorders. Also known as a whole genome association study, a genome-wide association study examines all or most of the genes of different individuals to see how much the genes vary from individual to individual.
Recognition of bipolar disorder in adolescents is now clearly established. However, whether bipolarity exists in children remains controversial despite numerous studies that have been conducted on this topic in the last fifteen years. Since the diagnosis of bipolar disorder in children has been rising for the past ten years, clinicians, researchers, parents, and others who care for children are left wondering what accounts for this dramatic increase in diagnosing paediatric bipolar disorder (Dickstein, 2010): is it better recognition of an important psychiatric disorder or is it due to overdiagnosis, misdiagnosis, or a diagnostic trend? In response to this increase, both clinical and research interest in paediatric bipolar disorders have surged, including a re-examination of the diagnostic criteria for this condition based on developmental and neurobiological findings.
Researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and Beaumont Hospital have conducted a study which has found striking brain similarities in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The research has also pinpointed for the first time that a process which controls how information is transmitted from neuron to neuron in the brain is altered in both conditions and may potentially contribute to the developments of improved treatments in the future. The study was the first to look at sub-regions in the part of the brain known as the hippocampus. Abnormalities in the hippocampus are among the most consistent findings in schizophrenia research and are also implicated in bipolar disorder. Certain areas of the hippocampus (cornu ammonis regions 2 and 3) were found to be different, in terms of how their proteins are affected, in people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder compared to the general population.