New research findings presented today at the Sixth International Conference on Bipolar Disorder suggest specific genetic linkages that are associated with the mental illness, bringing researchers much closer to finding the elusive gene or genes. Another study finds an association between an abnormal thyroid condition and bipolar disorder, pointing to the possibility that a simple blood test could help identify those at risk.
To further investigate more specific genetic linkages, Marion Leboyer, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Paris Faculty of Medicine, studied 87 bipolar sibling pairs from 70 European families who were participants in the European Collaborative Study on Early Onset Bipolar Affective Disorder and identified eight regions of genetic linkages that, while not necessarily the sole or unique ones associated with this disease, zeroed in on what may be the specific genes that predispose individuals to early onset of this debilitating disease.
According to Dr. Leboyer, his studies of families with members who developed the illness as children or adolescents reduces those genetic and clinical variabilities that can complicate efforts to identify susceptibility genes. Finding these genes would help researchers develop more effective treatments or even prevent the disorder from occurring in at-risk individuals.
Other genetic clues come from results of two related studies involving adolescent and young adult offspring of bipolar parents and of twins with bipolar disorder, suggesting a genetic link between bipolar disorder and an abnormal thyroid condition.
Willem Nolen, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Groningen Medical Centre, Netherlands, found that bipolar patients were twice as