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Gene controlling circadian rhythms may be involved in onset of bipolar disorder

DALLAS March 19, 2007 Disrupt the gene that regulates the biological clocks in mice and they become manic, exhibiting behaviors similar to humans with bipolar disorder, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have found.

In a study available online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists from UT Southwestern show that the Clock gene, which controls the body's circadian rhythms, may be integrally involved in the development of bipolar disorder. Circadian rhythms include the daily ups-and-downs of waking, eating and other processes such as body temperature, hormone levels, blood pressure and heart activity.

"There's evidence suggesting that circadian genes may be involved in bipolar disorder," said Dr. Colleen McClung, assistant professor of psychiatry and the study's senior author. "What we've done is taken earlier findings a step further by engineering a mutant mouse model displaying an overall profile that is strikingly similar to human mania, which will give us the opportunity to study why people develop mania or bipolar disorder and how they can be treated."

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes dramatic shifts in a person's mood, energy and ability to function much more severe than the normal ups and downs that most people experience. About 5.7 million American adults, or about 2.6 percent of the adult population, suffer from the psychiatric disorder.

The study included putting the mutant mice through a series of tests, during which they displayed hyperactivity, decreased sleep, decreased anxiety levels, a greater willingness to engage in "risky" activities, lower levels of depression-like behavior and increased sensitivity to the rewarding effects of substances such as cocaine and sugar.

"These behaviors correlate with the sense of euphoria and mania that bipolar patients experience," said Dr. McClung. "In
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Contact: Donna Steph Hansard
donna.hansard@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
19-Mar-2007


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