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January 5, 2007

Plan for New Research on Genetics and Bipolar Disorder

The Zucker Hillside Hospital campus of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and a team of researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) plan to collaborate on research to identify key genes in the onset of Bipolar Disorder. The studies will last 2 to 3 years, and will focus on early onset Bipolar Disorder by focusing on children diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and their parents. The research group will be headed by James Watson, PhD, a noble prize winner who co-discovered the DNA molecule.

"For complex illnesses like bipolar disorder that vary dramatically in symptoms and severity among affected individuals, especially children and adolescents, identifying genetic underpinnings is very difficult," said Anil Malhotra, MD, lead investigator for The Feinstein. "It is also critical to accelerating and confirming a bipolar diagnosis and developing more rational and effective treatments. Collaborating with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory will help make this a reality."
"This collaboration brings together the major elements necessary to understand a complex illness such as BPD," said Dr. Watson. "The clinical and scientific expertise of the physician-scientists at The Feinstein Institute combined with CSHL's breakthrough genetics research is a perfect match. I expect this collaboration to contribute a great deal to our understanding of the genes involved in bipolar disorder and to the diagnosis and treatment of this illness."
Although Bipolar Disorder usually develops in late teens of early adulthood, many children are now being affected with early onset. Diagnosis of these children can be difficult and many times they are misdiagnosed as ADHD or oppositional defiant. Some of the early symptoms are even believed to be in the range of normal developmental behaviors, so many children go years before they are diagnosed and receiving treatment. Without treatment these children can suffer academically and socially.

Children and adolescents between 7 and 18 years old, with two living biological parents may participate in the study. DNA from blood samples will be examined from both parents and the child. MRIs and psychological assessments will also be performed. The researchers hope to enroll 1,500 participants, 500 children and 1000 parents.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, bipolar disorder that begins in childhood or early adolescence may be a different, possibly more severe, form of the illness than older adolescent- and adult-onset bipolar disorder. Using novel genetic technologies, the research team hopes to identify for the first time genes that influence the risk of developing bipolar disorder at an early age. Such knowledge could help researchers develop preventative strategies and better treatments for this disabling illness.

The CSHL research team includes Jonathan Sebat, PhD, and Sydney Gary, PhD. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, and within the intramural research program at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, MD, are also collaborating on the study. This project is funded by a generous grant from the Stanley family.

About The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research

Located in Manhasset, NY, and part of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research is among the top six percent of all institutions that receive funding from the National Institutes of Health. Building on its strengths in immunology and inflammation, oncology and cell biology, genomics and human genetics, and neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders, its goal is to understand the biological processes that underlie various diseases and translate this knowledge into new tools for diagnosis and treatment. For more information, please visit

About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

CSHL is a private, non-profit research and education institution dedicated to exploring molecular biology and genetics in order to advance the understanding and ability to diagnose and treat cancers, neurological diseases, such as BPD, and other causes of human suffering. CSHL is ranked number one by Science Watch for its impact on Molecular Biology and Genetics during the last decade and is rated 10th of 4,000 charities for fiscal responsibility by Charity Navigator. For more information please visit or email the Public Affairs office at


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