Researchers at Karolinska Institutet, and the Sahlgrenska Academy at Gothenburg University in Sweden have identified a gene variant linked to psychotic symptoms and cognitive impairment in people with bipolar disorder. The study, which is published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, describes a possible mechanism for how the gene variant produces clinical symptoms by affecting levels of specific proteins in the brain.
“We’ve identified a gene variant linked to specific psychotic symptoms and cognitive impairment in people with bipolar disorder,” says Mikael Landén, researcher at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics and the Sahlgrenska Academy’s Department of Neuroscience and Physiology. “The link to cognitive symptoms is particularly interesting, since there are no treatments currently available to improve problems with attention, memory and concentration, which impact heavily on functional outcome and recoverability.”
Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia can largely be attributed to inherited factors. In recent years, scientists have identified specific gene variants that increase the risk of these diseases, but these risk variants only go some way to explaining why some people are afflicted by the disease and others are not. We currently do not know how these genetic risk factors affect the chemistry of the brain and cause specific symptoms, so it is not yet possible for scientists to design drugs to relieve symptoms shown by people with a particular genetic variant. To link, at a molecular level, a gene variant with biochemical changes and clinical symptoms related to a heritable psychiatric disorder, as in this present study, is therefore something of a breakthrough.
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