New Research at U-M Provides Insight into Bipolar Disorder

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tA new stem cell study at the University of Michigan Medical School may help scientists better understand bipolar disorder, a condition that makes people subject to manic highs and depressed lows.

t“Already, we see that cells from people with bipolar disorder are different in how often they express certain genes, how they differentiate into neurons, how they communicate, and how they respond to lithium,” says Sue O’Shea, a U-M stem cell specialist who co-directed the work.

tBy measuring differences in brain cell formation and function between people with bipolar disorder and those without, researchers found striking differences in how neurons respond to lithium — the most common treatment for bipolar disorder.

tMelvin McInnis, principal investigator of the Prechter Bipolar Research Fund, which is supporting the study, says the new research could take treatment of bipolar disorder into the era of personalized medicine

t“We’re very excited about these findings,” McInnis says. “But we’re only just beginning to understand what we can do with these cells to help answer the many unanswered questions in bipolar disorder’s origins and treatment. For instance, we can now envision being able to test new drug candidates in these cells, to screen possible medications proactively instead of having to discover them fortuitously.”

tThe researchers are already developing stem cell lines from the skin of other trial participants with bipolar disorder. They will share their cell lines with other researchers via the Prechter Repository at U-M and hope to develop a way to use the cells to screen drugs rapidly.

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