Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Bipolar Disorder Health Center

Font Size

Many Genes May Affect Bipolar Disorder

Genes Identified in Study May Lead to New Treatments
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

May 8, 2007 -- Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, may be influenced by several genes, a new study shows.

The findings may one day lead to new treatments for bipolar disorder.

"Treatments that target just a few of these genes or the proteins they make could yield substantial benefits for patients," Francis McMahon, MD, says in a National Institutes of Health (NIH) news release.

McMahon works for the mood and anxiety disorders program at the National Institute of Mental Health, which is part of the NIH.

First, McMahon and colleagues screened the genes of 975 people from the U.S., including 412 bipolar disorder patients and 563 people without bipolar disorder.

The scientists found 80 gene patterns that were more common in the bipolar disorder patients.

Next, the researchers verified their findings by studying DNA from more than 1,300 Germans, including 679 bipolar disorder patients and 543 people without bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder's Complex Roots

No single gene stood out in the DNA studies. The genes identified by McMahon's team were only modestly linked to bipolar disorder.

"These data suggest that bipolar disorder is ... influenced by many genes, each of small effect," write McMahon and colleagues in Molecular Psychiatry's online edition.

One of the genes that was more strongly associated with bipolar disorder is the DGKH gene, which makes a protein that is sensitive to the bipolar disorder drug lithium.

"Lithium is still the primary treatment for bipolar disorder, but DGKH is a promising target for new treatments that might be more effective and better tolerated," says McMahon.

A person's chance of having bipolar disorder may depend on their bipolar disorder gene profile and environmental factors that interact with genetic risk, the researchers note.

They add that many of the genes they identified are located in DNA regions that have previously been linked to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Because gene patterns may vary among different ethnic groups, the researchers only studied people of European descent. Another study is under way to probe the genetic roots of bipolar disorder in other populations, notes the NIH.

Today on WebMD

lunar eclipse
Signs of mania and depression.
Pills on blank prescription paper
Learn about this popular bipolar disorder medication.
serious looking young woman
Assess your symptoms.
teen girl in bad mood
How is each one different?
Feeling Ups and Downs
Bipolar or Schizo
Foods to Avoid
Man being scolded by his shadow
lunar eclipse
depressed man
young women not speaking
man talking with therapist