New Study Says Specific Gene Variants May Increase Risk of Bipolar Disorder

Researchers have identified a key protein and its correlation with bipolar disorder.

Statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that bipolar disorder is the 6th leading cause of disability in the world. The WHO estimates that well over 300 million people suffer from depression across the globe, while 60 million people worldwide suffer from some form of bipolar affective disorder.

Recently renewed interest in mental health, has inspired researchers to use modern science to better understand mental health and the biological triggers that may increase someone’s risk of having a bipolar affective disorder.

New research from MIT discovers that the human protein CPG2 is significantly less present in the brains of people who do not have bipolar disorder. Led by Elly Nedivi, professor in MIT's departments of Biology and Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and former postdoc Mette Rathje, the results of the study could help construct new therapies to fight the crippling mental disorder.

Bipolar Disorder Risk

Published in Molecular Psychiatry, the MIT team’s research centered around identifying how a set of differences in patients with bipolar disorder can trigger a physiological dysfunction for neural circuit connections in a brain.

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Though the team identified the CPG2 was far more present in those who suffered from bipolar disorder, their study doesn’t necessarily point to the protein as the cause of the disorder.

Rather, the MIT study results highlight the fact that a higher presence of CPG2 is likely to contribute significantly to susceptibility to the disease.

"It's a rare situation where people have been able to link mutations genetically associated with increased risk of a mental health disorder to the underlying cellular dysfunction," says Nedivi, "For bipolar disorder, this might be the one and only."

For the uninitiated, CPG2 is a protein found in the brain that is a result of neural activity, that helps regulate the number of receptors for the neurotransmitter glutamate at excitatory synapses. Proper regulation of glutamate is crucial for the brain’s synapses to fire correctly.  

When it does not, it could, in fact, lead to the episodes of mania and depression associated with the disorder.

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