A University of Michigan study into stem cell research may hold promise for people with bipolar disorder. Professor Melvin McInnis at U-M Medical School, who is also the associate director of the university’s Depression Center, hopes the ongoing work will lead to better treatment for the disorder.
The researchers are specifically looking at the new lines of stem cells which were created from the skin cells of adults diagnosed with the disorder. The U-M Health website notes that this could present researchers with an “unprecedented opportunity to delve into the genetic and biological underpinnings of the devastating mood disorder.” This study’s findings will be collated with the statistical and demographic data gathered in another ongoing study of adults diagnosed with the disorder in hopes of shedding more light on issues related to medication effectiveness and varying gene expressions among the population.
Noting that current popular treatments for bipolar disorder are only effective for between 30% and 50% of the approximately 5.7 million bipolar patients in the U.S., Dr. McInnis hopes that the access to genetic information from bipolar patients will improve researchers’ understanding of the way the disorder responds to those treatments, which may in turn suggest new and more effective protocols. An additional concern is that, due in large part to the rate of ineffectiveness of current treatments, anywhere from 5% to 15% of bipolar patients will attempt to kill themselves at some point.
The current research, as well as the long-term statistical study, is being funded by the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund. Prechter was a business man who struggled with bipolar disorder for most of his life, and eventually committed suicide in 2001; his wife, Wally Prechter, established the foundation to fund further research at the University of Michigan into the causes and new treatments for the disorder.