Gene variants increase bipolar risk

A collection of changes in genes linked with behavior could turn out to be pointers to the risk of bipolar disorder, according to research in the U.S.

Like many psychiatric and neurological disorders, bipolar disorder is, to a pretty major degree, in the genes. For example, children with a parent or sibling who has bipolar disorder are four to 6 times more likely to develop the illness. While the genetics are fairly complicated, knowing whose genes put them at risk could help with screening, support and even early treatment, as well as point out targets for new drugs.

The research targeted 29 genes connected with a signaling pathway already known to be involved in behavior, and looked for genetic changes in people with or without bipolar disorder. They found some strong links between variants of genes and bipolar disorder, one of which, the PDE10A gene, is in the part of the brain involved in learning, memory, decision-making and motivation.

"Using samples from some 3,400 individuals, we identified several new variants in genes closely associated with bipolar disorder," professor Ron Davis of the Florida campus of Scripps Research Institute, who led the study, said in a press release. The results were published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

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- see the paper (sub. req.)