Last updated February 7, 2019 at 10:39 am
Australian researchers need your help for the world’s biggest genetic study of bipolar disorder.
Australian researchers have put a call out for 5,000 Australians who have been treated for bipolar disorder to help them with the world’s largest genetic investigation into the illness.
The team from Brisbane’s QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute hope that with the help of the public, the Australian Genetics of Bipolar Disorder Study will identify the genes that predispose people to bipolar disorder. And that information, they say, could be used to develop more effective, personalised treatments, and ultimately, find a cure for the illness.
Participants will need to fill out a short survey, and send the researchers a saliva sample. It is all they need to potentially crack the code of bipolar disorder.
“The human genome contains around 20,000 genes. We just need a large enough study, performed in the right way, to identify which of those genes are increasing the risk of bipolar disorder,” says Nick Martin, who heads the Genetic Epidemiology Research Group at QIMR Berghofer.
The study approach is the same used in the Genetics of Depression Study launched in 2017, by the same researchers. That study has already produced findings which revealed new insights into depression.
The challenges of biopolar disorder
Around one in 50 Australians will experience bipolar disorder during their lifetime. However, one of the major challenges managing the illness is that a significant proportion of those people do not respond well to the standard treatment of lithium carbonate.
It was that problem which inspired the creation of the new genetics study. According to the researchers there is an urgent need to be able to better predict which patients will be best helped by using lithium, and which patients are better suited using other treatments – one of the anticipated outcomes of the Australian Genetics of Bipolar Disorder Study.
“Our study should improve our understanding of the biology of bipolar disorder and open the door to new treatments tailored to a person’s genetic make-up, to maximise effectiveness and minimise side-effects,” says Martin.
This includes finding what predisposes people to bipolar disorder, why it commonly occurs in families, and the relative influence of genetic and environmental factors.
“Identification of the genes that predispose people to bipolar disorder will revolutionise future research into the causes, treatment and prevention of the illness,” says Ian Hickie, who is co-leader of the research at the University of Sydney.
People interested in enrolling in the Australian Genetics of Bipolar Disorder Study can find out more information on the study website.