Fresh Hope for Sufferers as Researchers Find Genetic Key to Bipolar Disorder; University Enhances Reputation for Mental Illness Expertise with Latest Discovery

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Byline: Madeleine Brindley Health Editor

A SCIENTIFIC breakthrough has uncovered two genes linked to the distressing mental illness bipolar disorder.

The breakthrough discovery paves the way for new treatments for patients suffering from the disorder, previously known as manic depression.

And the research, by Cardiff University, the Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, could also play a major part in destigmatising the disorder.

It also cements Cardiff University's reputation as a world leader in mental health research, coming just weeks after experts made a similar genetic breakthrough in schizophrenia.

Prof Nick Craddock, of Cardiff University's school of medicine, who led the research, said: "The findings will help to avoid people saying that bipolar disorder is just the way some people are, or that they should be able to control it.

"It puts it on a parallel with other diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes."

Bipolar disorder is characterised by severe disturbances in mood, ranging from depression to elation, and can cause deep suffering in at least1%of the population.

Comedians Spike Milligan and Stephen Fry and poet Dylan Thomas suffered fromthe disorder.

The Cardiff and US research, which is published in the journal Nature Genetics, was the largest study of its kind as the team studied genes from more than 10,000 people, including 4,300 with bipolar disorder.

After examining around 1.8 million genetic variations they found strong evidence that two genes are associated with bipolar disorder.

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

A gene called Ankyrin 3 (ANK3) showed the strongest association with bipolar disorder. …