The Genetics of Bipolar Disorder

Scientists identify gene mutation linked to mental illness

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FRIDAY, June 20, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A gene that causes bipolar disorder in some people has been identified by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine

A report on their discovery appears in the June 16 issue of Molecular Psychiatry.

The study found a mutation in a gene that regulates sensitivity to brain neurotransmitters such as dopamine causes bipolar disorder in as many as 10 percent of the people with the psychiatric illness.

The mutation in the gene called G protein receptorkinase 3 occurs in a part of the gene called the promoter, which regulates when the gene is turned on.

The USCD researchers hypothesize that this mutation causes a person to become hypersensitive to dopamine. That results in the mood extremes that alternate between euphoric peaks and serious depression seen in people with bipolar disorder.

This is the first study to pinpoint a precise gene involved in the disease.

About a third to a half of the 1 million people worldwide with bipolar disorder get little benefit from existing treatments. One of the major limitations in bipolar treatment is a lack of new molecular targets for drugs.

The UCSD researchers say studies like theirs that pinpoint genetic defects that cause bipolar disorder can help lead to the development of new drugs directed at specific genes.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about bipolar disorder.

SOURCE: University of California, San Diego, news release, June 15, 2003
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