November 28, 2007

New Database to Help Specify Genes Linked to Bipolar Disorder

Johns Hopkins University, Department of Psychiatry and the National Institute of Mental Health have teamed together to create a new, innovative and free database, which researchers are saying is going to increase their ability to pinpoint genes linked to bipolar disorder. The database, called The Bipolar Disorder Phenome Database, is revolutionary in its ability to offer "...detailed descriptions of symptoms and course of disease on more than 5,000 people with bipolar (disorder)..."

Because DNA samples are available for this group, the database will let researchers correlate specific symptoms with sequences of genetic material. The new database...is meant to complement the massive bodies of genetic data generated already by the Human Genome Project, the International HapMap Consortium and the Genetic Analysis Information Network.

"This database describes the clinical picture of bipolar disorder in the fullest detail possible," said James Potash, who led the Johns Hopkins portion of efforts to assemble the site. "It also lets us pick out meaningful clusters of symptoms that will ultimately help identify genes."

These clusters of symptoms enable scientists to notice DNA and genes that stand out. For example, if they group together patients who developed bipolar disorder early or patients who experience panic attacks, then they're more likely to notice DNA that stands out in those groups. Apparently, scientists have used this same clustering to find genes that are now known to be associated with conditions such as breast cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

Another advantage The Bipolar Disorder Phenome Database has is that it cuts down the costs of collecting data from patients. The database already stores data collected from two large national studies conducted over a twenty-year period. Thus researchers are able to tap into this data when using the database without the cost of collecting new data.

Full Story: New Databases Put Wings on Search for Bipolar Risk Genes (The JHU Gazette)
More Information: Mood Disorders at Johns Hopkins Psychiatry

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