Why Bipolar Can Often Be A Family Affair

Image of peopleScientists are a step closer to understanding how bipolar disorder can be passed down through families, thanks to genome sequencing.

It’s been widely accepted that bipolar is frequently inherited, but this new research has identified 84 potential gene mutations which could help explain it.

“One thing we learned is that it will take genetic data from at least several thousand more people with bipolar disorder to confirm that these rare mutations do in fact directly cause the disease,” says Dr Fernando Goes from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine.

His team studied eight families with a history of bipolar disorder through several generations. Thirty-six family members who had the disease had their entire genomes sequenced. The 84 rare gene variations stood out in all of them.

“Once we can confirm that these rare mutations are associated with bipolar disorder in other samples, our plan will then be to integrate them with the more subtle, common mutations from the earlier genomic studies to better understand the cause of bipolar disorder,” says Dr Goes.

Bipolar is characterised by periods of alternating episodes of severe depression and ecstatic mania. The World Health Organisation says it affects more than 60 million people.