June 29, 2005

Bipolar May Have Genetic Link to Alpha Thalassemias

The human chromosomes have given us clues as to why we get several of the illnesses and diseases that we get today. We are getting more clues about bipolar disorder and its genetic inheritance by looking at the afflictions that can often come with it. There may be a possible link between bipolar disorder and alpha thalassemias. Alpha thalassemias is an inability to make the amount of hemoglobin that the blood in the human body needs. This leads to a reduced production of red blood cells and an increased destruction of the cells. It can lead to anemia and in the most severe cases, death.

"Some genetic studies described the existence of possible genetic susceptibility for bipolar disorder on the short arm of chromosome 16, close to the gene involved in certain alpha-thalassemias, on the region 16p13.3. An interesting finding is that the sequencing of 258 kb of the chromosome region 16p13.3 not only allowed the identification of genes involved in the alpha-thalassemia and in the vulnerability to bipolar disorders, but also the identification of genes implicated in tuberous sclerosis, in polycystic kidney disease, in cataract with microophtalmia, and in vulnerability genetic factors for ATR-16 syndrome, asthma, epilepsy, certain forms of autism and mental retardation" (Damsa, et al.).

The area of the chromosome that could cause bipolar disorder is very close to the area that causes alpha thalassemias. If the link between them is valid then that means that those who have bipolar disorder have a higher chance of having alpha thalassemias. This link has not been validated yet so whether the two are truly related will be discovered only through future research studies.

The discovery of such a link could help us better understand the physiopathology of bipolar disorder. The discovery could even help at a therapeutic level.

For more information on Alpha Thalassemias go to: http://tinyurl.com/7j6h3

The source of this story was a research article called: Alpha-thalassemias and bipolar disorders: a genetic link? The authors were Damsa C, Borras L, Bianchi-Demicheli F, Andreoli A.
To see this article go to: http://tinyurl.com/7pj4t

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