Bipolar Disorder Tied to Copied or Missing DNA

Isolating root causes of bipolar disorder took a step forward this December with the discovery that early onset bipolar disorder can be caused by missing or duplicated chains of DNA that are either inherited or that developed in utero. These copy number variants (CVNs) have been implicated in the development of schizophrenia and autism, as well as a range of other neuropsychiatric disorders, but the work of scientists at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine is the first time CVNs have been tied to bipolar disorder.

It has long been understood that there exists a genetic component to the likelihood of an individual developing bipolar disorders, since it tends to run in families. But research into the genes themselves has been inconclusive. If genes themselves play a direct role, it is a complex and interconnected one.

According to UCSD scientists, when CVNs occur de novo—within the sperm or egg, or after the egg has been fertilized—five percent of patients are going to see a significantly heightened risk for bipolar disorder. In particular, early onset bipolar disorder, which appears in childhood or early adulthood, seems most susceptible.

UCSD scientists were unable to identify certain regions with the DNA that seemed most vulnerable to CVNs; large numbers of families would have to have their genome sequenced to identify every contributing CVN to any particular disease. The value of this study, they say, is in knowing that de novo CVNs occur at a much higher rate in those with pneuropsychiatric disorders.

Source: The University of California, San Diego

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