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NIMH and Washington University School of Medicine Bipolar Family Study Newsletter -September 2002

The goal of this ongoing NIH funded study is to identify the genes that contribute to bipolar disorder. To accomplish this goal, and over the past 12 years, we have been recruiting families with at least two members diagnosed with Bipolar I disorder. Families were initially collected at only four sites in the United States with Washington University School of Medicine being one of the original member accrual sites. However, over the past 4 years, additional research universities have joined this effort and families are now being recruited at different geographic locations throughout the United States.

During this phase of the project, 481 families across the United States have participated in this important National Institute of Health (NIH) funded study. As a result of the active involvement of families we have already begun to better understand why some individuals develop bipolar disorder. In a recently published paper, we reported that there may be a gene on chromosome 16 that increases the risk an individual will develop bipolar disorder. While this is important progress, this does not mean that a gene has been identified. Rather, researchers are now trying to identify all the genes in this portion of chromosome 16 and will then begin to examine many of them in order to understand which might be involved in bipolar disorder.

The identification of genes that affect the risk of developing a mood disorder is very complicated and extremely time consuming. Researchers have sought to identify the genes contributing to bipolar disorder for several decades. Recently, there has been some exciting news. Scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University reported that the gene dystrobrevin-binding protein 1, or dysbindin, is strongly associated with schizophrenia in Irish families having multiple members diagnosed with schizophrenia. While this new finding must be examined by other researchers, this is potentially exciting news and may mark a breakthrough in psychiatric genetics.

To help us achieve our goal of identifying and understanding the role of the genes that affect bipolar risk, it is essential that we keep in contact with the families who have participated in our study. It is important that we learn about new family members that may be showing signs of bipolar disorder or any other mood disorder so that we can ask them if they would like to participate in this important research project. We look forward to keeping you informed of the important scientific information we are learning from this study. We also want to thank you again for your willingness to help us better understand the genetics of bipolar disorder.

As our study continues to progress through its recruitment/analysis phases and as new milestones and/or discoveries occur we will continue to keep you informed of our advances.

On behalf of our Bipolar Family Study, we want to thank you for your participation. It is always a pleasure to find individuals who are willing to give of their time in order to assist in our worthwhile research. Without this effort and commitment, our study's goals and objectives could not be achieved or realized. Please feel free to call the study should you have any questions in the future.

Theodore Reich, M.D.
Principle Investigator
Caroline E. Drain, M.H.S.
Project Manager
(314) 286-1345
Carrie Wilcox, B.S.
Research Assistant
(314) 286-1319
Brooke Wyrick, B.S.
Research AssistantR(314) 286-1378

Modified December 25, 2002

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