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Scientists find new link for bipolar disorder

Scientists have found a possible mechanism for how bipolar disorder is treated by lithium. For over 50 years lithium has been an effective treatment for manic depression, also known as bipolar disorder, but no one has been sure why it works, however.

Researchers from Cardiff University have come up with a possible mechanism for why Lithium is effective, which could help in being able to understand the illness better and even develop even better treatments.

Cell studies done in labs reveal that there is an enzyme that is responsible for the vulnerability to lithium. Known as prolyl oliogopeptidase (PO), this enzyme controls a set of genes that determine lithium sensitivity.

Among the genes in this set is ImpA2, which has also been linked to some bipolar patients' differences, so these results show a mechanistic association that could potentially explain the changes in these patients.

"We still cannot say definitively how lithium can help stabilise bipolar disorder. However, our research has uncovered a new cell signalling process with links to bipolar disorder." Said Professor Adrian Harwood of Cardiff School of Biosciences, who led this research.

"This introduces a new mechanism and more candidate genes whose study could lead to greater understanding of the causes of bipolar disorder, better diagnostic tests and new types of drugs that are more effective and have fewer side effects than Lithium does at present." The Professor added.

This research was published in the international journal PLoS ONE.

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