Hunting for bipolar disorder genes:
ANN ARBOR, MI – Around the globe, scientists are hunting for the specific genes that make millions of people vulnerable to the highs associated with the mania and the lows associated with the depressions of bipolar disorder.
On July 13, the University of Michigan Depression Center will offer the public an update on that gene hunt, with the first-ever Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund Lecture.
The lecture will be given by a noted researcher from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore who is working closely with U-M scientists to find genes related to bipolar disorder. It will begin at 11 a.m. in the auditorium on the lower level of the Rachel Upjohn Building, at 4250 Plymouth Rd. in Ann Arbor. It is free and open to the public.
The lecture is the first in a series named for Heinz Prechter, an automotive pioneer who battled bipolar disorder for most of his life – even while building a successful business and attracting the admiration of friends and family. His suicide in 2001 spurred his wife, Waltraud “Wally” Prechter, to launch a research fund and projects aimed at better understanding the disease’s origins and finding new treatments.
One of those projects is building the world’s largest private bipolar genetics repository, housed at the University of Michigan Depression Center. This repository contains DNA samples from people with bipolar disorder, and from people without the disease who act as comparison subjects. Launched at U-M in 2005, it is used by U-M scientists and colleagues from Stanford University and Cornell University. Last year, a similar genetic collection housed at the John Hopkins University was moved to U-M – making it part of the Prechter Bipolar Genetic Repository, and greatly increasing the ability to perform research on large populations at once.
As a result, it’s especially fitting that the first Prechter lecture will be given by one of the leaders of the Hopkins effort, James B. Potash, M.D., MPH, the director of the Mood Disorders Research Program at Hopkins. His talk, titled “Searching High and Low for Bipolar Disorder Genes,” will be the first in a series that will feature distinguished researchers from the four participating universities.
The lecture series is sponsored by Comerica Incorporated, Daimler Chrysler Corp., Dearborn Sausage Company, the General Motors Foundation, Neiman-Marcus and Scott Snow Financial Services.
An estimated 5.7 million Americans have bipolar disorder. Because of the condition’s genetic links, patients’ loved ones, especially their children, are at risk of developing the disease themselves. Although no single gene “causes” bipolar disorder, the disease has its roots in complex genetic vulnerabilities that run in families.
For more information on the Prechter Fund and Genetic Repository, visit www.med.umich.edu/depression/prechter_repository.htm. To learn more about the need for volunteers for the genetics project, call toll-free, 1-877-UM-GENES.
Written by: Kara Gavin
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