Stem cell model for bipolar disorder may lead to new treatments
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
3/27/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Bipolar disorder is one of the ore common examples of mental illness. Those who suffer from bipolar disorder suffer drastic mood swings - from ecstatic happiness to the depths of despair. It's not yet known what causes it. Researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School have now created the first stem cell model for bipolar disorder. They hope that the model will uncover the origins of the condition and open the door to new treatments.
Bipolar disorder is one of the ore common examples of mental illness. Those who suffer from bipolar disorder suffer drastic mood swings - from ecstatic happiness to the depths of despair.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Investigators obtained skin samples from people with bipolar disorder along with skin samples from individuals without the condition.
Exposing small samples of skin cells to carefully controlled conditions, the researchers turned them into induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs. These are stem cells that have the potential to be turned into any other type of cell. The team then turned the iPSCs into neurons.
Researchers then measured gene expression of the iPSCs and then re-evaluated gene expression once the stem cells became neurons. The team found significant differences between the stem cells taken from bipolar patients from those without the condition.
Stem cell lines were made from the skin of bipolar patients. Researchers found that the neurons from bipolar patients expressed more genes for membrane receptors and ion channels than the neurons from non-bipolar patients. This was particularly true for genes for receptors and channels involved in sending and receiving calcium signals between cells.
As calcium signals play a significant role in neuron development and function, the investigators say their findings suggest that genetic differences in early brain development may contribute to the development of bipolar and other mental health conditions later in life.
Researchers exposed the neurons to lithium, which is a chemical that bipolar patients often use to regulate their mood, signaling that patterns had changed.
Researchers explain that lithium changes how calcium signals are sent and received. These new cell lines will allow them to determine the mechanisms behind this in cells specific to bipolar patients.
Bipolar disorders affects approximately 5.7 million adults in the US every year.
Bipolar disorder is currently treated with various medications, such as mood stabilizers, antidepressants and antipsychotics. Not all bipolar patients respond to them in the same way and many are left with uncontrolled symptoms.
"We're very excited about these findings" study author Melvin McInnis, of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School, says. He notes that this stem cell model could lead to personalized treatment for bipolar disorder.
He does qualify the recent findings. "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."
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