Genetic tests may help bipolar disorder patients

  • @jeremylaurance

Scientists have identified a group of patients with a genetic predisposition to mental illness, opening up for the first time the prospect of personalised medicine in psychiatry.

Personalised medicine involves identifying groups of patients whose genes make them susceptible to certain diseases and responsive to certain drugs.

Researchers from University College, London (UCL) studied 1,000 patients with bipolar disorder and found 1.7 per cent carried a mutation in an important brain receptor gene putting them at increased risk of the disease.

The findings suggest the patients with the mutation, called GRM3, could be treated with existing drugs which are not currently used for bipolar disorder.

Hugh Gurling, a molecular psychiatry professor at UCL, who led the study published in JAMA Psychiatry, said many different genes were involved in causing bipolar disorder. These were the first mutations increasing susceptibility to the illness to be identified.

Examining the underlying genetics of the disease enabled psychiatrists to predict who would respond to different drugs. Two drugs trialled for schizophrenia and anxiety disorder could be effective in bipolar disorder, Professor Gurling said.