Scientists identify susceptibility factor for bipolar disorder

March 3, 2011, Cell Press

A new study provides fascinating insight into the genetic basis of bipolar disorder, a highly heritable mood disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of mania and depression. The research, published by Cell Press online February 24 in the American Journal of Human Genetics, identifies a previously unrecognized susceptibility factor for bipolar disorder.

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) provide a way to systematically sort through all the of many individuals in order to identify genetic variations associated with a particular disease. However, thus far these studies have not been as successful in bipolar disorder as they have been for several other common diseases, such as type II , Crohn disease, and schizophrenia. Dr. Sven Cichon, from the University of Bonn in Germany, together with his colleagues Dr. Markus M. Nöthen (University of Bonn) and Dr. Marcella Rietschel (Central Institute of Mental Health, Mannheim), led a GWAS and a critical two-step follow-up study of samples from a great number of clinically well-characterized European, American, and Australian individuals with bipolar disorder.

Dr. Cichon and colleagues found that genetic variation in the gene neurocan (NCAN) showed a significant association with bipolar disorder in thousands of patients. Importantly, in a follow up study, these findings were replicated in tens of thousands of individual samples of bipolar disorder. The researchers went on to show that the mouse version of this gene, which is written Ncan and is thought to be involved in neuronal adhesion and migration, is strongly expressed in brain areas associated with cognition and the regulation of emotions.

Although mice without functional Ncan did not exhibit obvious defects in brain structure or basic cell communication, there did appear to be some perturbation in mechanisms associated with learning and memory, mechanisms that have been associated with the cognitive deficits observed in bipolar disorder. However, the authors caution that Ncan-deficient mice need to be re-examined for more subtle brain changes and behavioral abnormalities.

"Our results provide strong evidence that genetic variation in the gene NCAN is a common risk factor for bipolar disorder," concludes Dr. Cichon. "Further work is needed now to learn more about the biological processes that NCAN is involved in and how NCAN variants disturb neuronal processes in patients with ."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Young children use physics, not previous rewards, to learn about tools

February 23, 2018
Children as young as seven apply basic laws of physics to problem-solving, rather than learning from what has previously been rewarded, suggests new research from the University of Cambridge.

The 'loudness' of our thoughts affects how we judge external sounds

February 23, 2018
The "loudness" of our thoughts—or how we imagine saying something—influences how we judge the loudness of real, external sounds, a team of researchers from NYU Shanghai and NYU has found.

Study: Tinder loving cheaters—dating app facilitates infidelity

February 23, 2018
The popular dating app Tinder is all about helping people form new relationships. But for many college-aged people, it's also helping those in relationships cheat on their romantic partners.

Looking for the origins of schizophrenia

February 23, 2018
Schizophrenia may be related to neurodevelopmental changes, including brain's inability to generate an appropriate vascular system, according to new study resulted from a partnership between the D"Or Institute for Research ...

Color of judo uniform has no effect on winning

February 22, 2018
New research on competitive judo data finds a winning bias for the athlete who is first called, regardless of the colour of their uniform. This unique study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, puts to rest the debate on ...

Antidepressants are more effective than placebo at treating acute depression in adults, concludes study

February 22, 2018
Meta-analysis of 522 trials includes the largest amount of unpublished data to date, and finds that antidepressants are more effective than placebo for short-term treatment of acute depression in adults.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.