Cardiff Research May Help Spell Relief for Thousands of Bipolar Sufferers; University Scientists Identify Key Genes Behind Disorder

Article excerpt

Byline: Madeleine Brindley Health Editor

PEOPLE suffering from the mental illness bipolar disorder have been given fresh hope of new treatments by Cardiff scientists.

A research team at Cardiff University has found two genes associated with the illness.

It is hoped that the breakthrough discovery will pave the way to new treatments and end the stigma associated with the condition.

Bipolar disorder is characterised by severe disturbances in mood ranging from depression to elation and can cause deep suffering in at least 1% of cases.

Comedian Stephen Fry, who suffers from the disorder, recently revealed how he attempted suicide after walking out of a West End play.

And Hollywood actor Ben Stiller, star of Meet The Parents and new film Tropic Thunder, said in 2001: "I have not been an easygoing guy. I think it's called bipolar manic depression. I've got a rich history of that in my family."

The Cardiff University research, carried out with the Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, is the largest study of its kind and involved experts studying more than 1.8m genetic variations among 10,000-plus people, including 4,300 with bipolar disorder.

The team, led by Professor Nick Craddockat Cardiff University, found strong evidence that two genes are associated with the disorder, which affects seven out of every 100,000 people.

These genes help make proteins which control nerve cells' activity by managing the flow of sodium and calcium particles in and out of the cells.

The results, published in the journal Nature Genetics, suggest that bipolar disorder might stem - in part - from a malfunction of these brain mechanisms.

Prof Craddock said: "The activity of nerve cells depends upon a delicatechemical balance. …