New research could help to shed light on the genes that predispose people to the illness, so experts can ultimately develop more personalised treatments and find a cure
Australian researchers are seeking 5,000 adults who have been treated for bipolar disorder to volunteer for the world’s largest genetic investigation into the often-devastating chronic illness.
The Australian Genetics of Bipolar Disorder Study aims to identify the genes that predispose people to bipolar disorder in order to develop more effective, personalised treatments, and ultimately find a cure for the illness.
QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute (QIMR Berghofer) is the base for the Australian arm of the international study, with collaborating centres throughout North America and Europe.
The study aims to recruit 100,000 participants, with Australian researchers hoping to contribute 5% of the overall study population.
Researchers are looking for male and female Australian volunteers aged 18 and older, who are currently or have been treated in the past for bipolar disorder.
According to the Black Dog Institute, approximately one in 50 Australians (1.8%) will experience bipolar disorder during their lifetime.
The complex disorder typically results from a combination of genetic and environmental influences.
Those living with bipolar disorder may be at higher risk of developing other health issues, including alcohol and drug abuse, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.
They also carry a 15 times greater risk of suicide than the general population, accounting for up to 25% of all suicides.
According to Professor Nick Martin, Australian study co-investigator and Head of the Genetic Epidemiology Research Group, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, there is a strong link between genetics and bipolar disorder.
“The human genome contains around 20,000 genes,” says Professor Martin.
“Although we do not yet know all the genes that influence bipolar, what we do know is how to identify them.
“We just need a large enough study, performed in the right way, to identify these genes.”
According to Professor Ian Hickie AM, study co-investigator and Co-Director for Health and Policy at Brain and Mind Centre, The University of Sydney: “Participation in the study is free and simple – volunteers complete a 20-minute online survey, and those who qualify will be asked to donate a saliva sample.
“Identification of the genes that predispose people to bipolar disorder will revolutionise future research into the causes, treatment and prevention of the illness,” he said.