For the first time, scientists have been able to actually measure differences in the formation and function of brain cells between individuals with bipolar disorder and those without it. Statistics have shown that nearly six million adult Americans have bipolar disorder. That is nearly three percent of the United States population over the age of 18, states the National Institute of Mental Health.
Bipolar Disorder is also considered one of the highest causes of disability all over the world. The mental disorder is thought to cause nearly a nine year reduction in estimated life span, and it is thought that at least one in five people who suffer from the mental disease will commit suicide. Yet the new study with the measurement of the difference of brain cells may be able to offer hope for a healthier understanding into the intricacies of the mental health problem.
Scientists that worked at the University of Michigan took skin samples from people who had bipolar disorder to obtain the first ever stem cell cultures that were made particular for this study. In the new research study that was printed up in the journal Translational Psychiatry, researchers explained how they changed the stem cells to neurons, comparable to those that are located in the brain, and then compared these cells to cells that came from individuals who did not suffer from bipolar disorder.
The side-by-side comparison showed extremely detailed differences in how the neurons communicated and also behaved with one other, and also recognized prominent differences in how the neurons reacted to the drug lithium, which is the most usually prescribed treatment for the mental disorder.
The group took small samples of skin cells and exposed them to carefully measured conditions. This enabled the scientists to turn the cell to stem cells that held the possibility to become any kind of cell they wanted. So with more enticing, the cells then went on to become neurons and may go on to become bipolar disorder.
That gave the researchers a model they could use to examine how cells behave as they change to neurons. They could see that cells from people who had bipolar disorder were different in the way they expressed particular genes, how they separate into neurons, how they interconnect and how they react to lithium. The findings caused much excitement but one of the researchers stated that they had only started to understand what they could do with the neurons to help give answers to the vast number of unanswered questions that have to do with the origins of bipolar disorder and also its treatment.
One thing that may happen is that scientists are now foreseeing being able to test new drug candidates from these cells, to be able to screen possible medicines proactively instead of having to discover them by chance only. Also in the research study, when the group measured gene appearance first inside the stem cells, and then looked at it again once the cells had changed into neurons, they noticed very exact differences coming out among the cells that came from bipolar disorder patients as opposed to the ones that came from people who did not have the condition.
More precisely, the bipolar neurons expressed additional genes for tissue receptors and ion passages than the non-bipolar cells did, mainly those channels and receptors which were tangled up in both the receiving and sending of calcium signs among the cells. Calcium signs have been known to be critical to neuron function and development for some years now.
The findings back the idea that genetic alterations expressed very early during the development of the brain could have much to do with the progress of bipolar disorder and also other mental health disorders that come on later in a person’s life. For the very first time, scientists have been able to actually measure differences in the formation and function of brain cells between individuals with bipolar disorder and those without it, so this is quite a stepping stone.
By Kimberly Ruble