Genetics plays a major role in human development and health. Our genes code for just about everything in our bodies; how things will be made, what they will be made with, where they will end up, etc. One of the most important areas in our bodies that our genes code for is the brain and the nervous system. Any small variation or mutation in a gene that is related to the brain could cause a genetic brain disorder, such as schizophrenia, autism, bipolar disorder, and many more.
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Of the three brain disorders listed above, bipolar disorder has been known to run in families with a possible genetic link. With the hopes of determining the genetic component for bipolar disorder, Dr. James Potash led his research team in a multi-layered study to possibly isolate the genes responsible. In the first part of their study, the researchers examined and compared the gene sequences of individuals with and without bipolar disorder to isolate any particular sequences that were more prevalent in one group than the other. This part of the study was meant to isolate different sequences to be further tested for their link to bipolar disorder. In the next part of the study, researchers examined and compared entire genomes of individuals with bipolar disorder and their family members to determine which genes may have stayed associated with the disorder across generations. This process helped isolate 84 possible genetic variations.
The 84 isolated genetic variations were then re-examined and compared among individuals with and without bipolar disorder one more time. This process did not develop any confirmed links to bipolar disorder. However, the researchers were able to determine that 19 of those 84 genetic variations were significantly more common in the genomes of individuals with bipolar disorder than in individuals without the disorder.
The most surprising and promising result of the study, however, was related to the initial 84 isolated genetic variations. The researchers noticed that many of those variations had previously been linked to both schizophrenia and autism, two other major genetic brain disorders. Both of these findings do not give researchers definitive answers about the links between any of these genetic brain disorders, but they do open the door to further research on the topic. Because there is now a lead to a possible link among all three of these disorders, future research can be aimed to determine that possible link and be applied to a plethora of fields and topics, including but not limited to genetic counseling, genetic brain disorder treatment, and causes for the disorders.
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