Recent research to emerge from the Indiana University School of Medicine suggests that hundreds of genes are involved in bipolar disorder. Now, the first map of these genes which may constitute as much as 10 percent of the human genome, has been developed.
Alexander B. Niculescu III, M.D., Ph.D., and his team, collaborated with with colleagues from the Scripps Research Institute, the University of California, SUNY Upstate Medical University and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The most most prominent genes relating to bipolar were identified and analyzed as to the way they work together. This has resulted in a comprehensive biological model of bipolar disorder.
Dr. Niculescu, a psychiatrist and director of the laboratory of neurophenomics at the IU School of Medicine said, "Not all genetic mutations will occur in every individual with bipolar disorder. Different individuals will have different combinations of genetic mutations. This genetic complexity is most likely what made past attempts to identify genes for the disorder through genetic-only studies so difficult and inconsistent."
As the evidence for genetic involvement in bipolar disorder has developed, so the task of understanding the various combinations has become easier to understand. Niculescu likens it to an internet search engine in that the more links there are to a page, the more likely it is to come to the top of the search list.
The research team are excited by their findings. "First and foremost, these studies will lead to a better understanding of bipolar and related disorders," Niculescu said. "Second, the researchers now plan to study individuals to see which combination of genes is present in individuals to come up with a genetic risk score."
With this knowledge it should be possible to apply a genetic risk score to an individual before the first signs of the disorder are seen. This would allow, for example, low-dose medication, counseling and lifestyle changes to be in place as way to delay or even circumvent the disorder from developing. If the disorder did develop, genetic tests could help determine a personalized treatment plan, depending on the particular combination of genes affected.