What if we were able to identify who is at risk for development of bipolar even before it occurs? What if we were then able to prevent it from ever occurring in those lives? What if we could individualize treatment for bipolar according to the precise genes contributing to the person’s issue? It now appears that with genetic testing, prevention and better treatment may be attainable in the foreseeable future, thanks to a major study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.
A group of neuroscientists initially gleaned data from genome-wide association research and other results on the activity of genes in humans and animals. Alexander B. Niculescu III of Indiana University said, “The process was similar to a Google approach—the more links there are to a page on the Internet, the more likely it is to come up at the top of your search list.” In other words, they looked at genes that had already been identified as contributing to bipolar, in the existing research literature, and prioritized them on the strength of evidence. The investigators were then able to create a genetic map of the disorder, a landmark development.
Further, they investigated how these genes work in tandem. The task of identifying the responsible genes has been an arduous process because hundreds of genes appear to be involved. Dr. Niculescu pointed out that it seems there may be up to 10% of the human genome involved in bipolar. Testing is not yet available, but the scientists are planning to develop it.
Researchers involved in the project were from Indiana University’s Medical School Institute of Psychiatric Research, Scripps Research Institute, the University of California San Diego, SUNY Upstate Medical University, and the National Institute of Mental Health. The study was published this month in the American Journal of Medical Genetics.
© Copyright 2008 by Jolyn Wells-Moran, PhD, MSW, therapist in Seattle, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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