Research — 12 March 2014

A team of international researchers has discovered two new genes connected to  bipolar disorder.

A study that will be published in the Nature Communications journal analyzed  genetic material from about 24,000 people, revealing five “risk regions” in  human DNA associated with the disease.

Two of those genes – ADCY2 on chromosome five and MIR2113-POU3F2 on  chromosome six – are new discoveries.

Researchers are especially interested in the ADCY2 gene, which codes an  enzyme involved in conducting signals to nerve cells. Scientists have previously  observed that signal transfers in certain regions of the brain are impaired in  people with bipolar disorder.brain

For the study, researchers obtained new genetic data from 2,266 people with  bipolar disorder, and 5,028 people from a control group. When that information  was merged with existing data sets from the Institute of Human Genetics, DNA  from a total of 9,747 patients was compared to that of 14,278 healthy  people.

“The investigation of the genetic foundations of bipolar disorder on this  scale is unique worldwide to date,” one of the researchers, Marcella Rietschel  of the Central Institute of Mental Health of Mannheim, Germany, said in a news  release.

Researchers said the study is “unparalleled” because it involved an “unprecedented number of patients” from around the world.

About one per cent of the global population suffers from bipolar disorder,  characterized by intense mood swings. Patients go from experiencing extreme  euphoria and hyperactivity – or manic phases – to extreme depression. Scientists  have been trying to understand what role genetics, in addition to a patient’s  environment and other factors, play in the development of the disease.

Markus M. Nöthen, director of the Institute of Human Genetics at the  University of Bonn Hospital, said that “many different genes are evidently  involved and these genes work together with environmental factors in a complex  way.”

Researchers say identifying genes related to bipolar disorder is like “looking for a needle in a haystack.” Differences between the DNA of people with  the disease and healthy individuals can only be statistically confirmed when a  large number of samples is involved, as was the case in this study.

The researchers also identified three other “risk” gene regions associated  with bipolar disorder, which have been described in previous studies. However,  they were “statistically better confirmed” in the latest study, they  said.

The latest study was conducted under the direction of scientists from the  University of Bonn Hospital and the Central Institute of Mental Health of  Mannheim in Germany, as well as the University of Basel Hospital in  Switzerland.

This article first appeared on CTV News on 11 March, 2014.



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