Previous studies have shown that bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression and afflicting around one percent of adults worldwide, is to a great extent dependent on inherited factors.
It has hitherto been unknown just which genes play a role and thus little is known about the mechanisms that shape the debilitating illness.
The study which involved 50,000 people and researchers from Sweden, Europe and the US, has now identified a specific gene which they believe has a particularly strong connection to the often baffling condition.
“The gene, called CACNA1C, codes for calcium channel in the brain. It is interesting as certain medicines to combat bipolar syndrome affect just this channel,” said Michael Landén, the Sahlgrenska Academy researcher leading the Gothenburg University team in the international study.
It is hoped that the identification of the gene, which has also been previously associated with schizophrenia, will encourage further research on how the calcium pathway affects the brain.
“The fact is that it will be necessary to develop a broader base of material if we are going to learn about bipolar syndrome, and there Sweden can make a valuable contribution,” Landén said.
The study was published last Sunday in the prestigious medical journal Nature Genetics.