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Bipolar risk boosted by accumulation of rare versions of genes

Variants alter nerve cell activity, study suggests

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3:00pm, February 16, 2015
bipolar graph

RISING RISK  People with bipolar disorder are more likely than others to have several rare versions of genes that control how much nerve cells fire. Width of the shapes in the graph indicate how many people in each group had a given number of rare gene types.

A buildup of rare versions of genes that control the activity of nerve cells in the brain increases a person’s risk for bipolar disorder, researchers suggest in a paper posted online the week of February 16 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  

“There are many different variants in many different genes that contribute to the genetic risk,” says coauthor Jared Roach, a geneticist at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle. “We think that most people with bipolar disorder will have inherited several of these…risk variants.”

The bulk of a person’s risk for bipolar disorder comes from genetics, but only a quarter of that risk can be explained by common variations in genes. Roach’s team sequenced the genomes of 200 people from 41 families with a history of bipolar disorder. They then identified 164 rare forms of genes that show

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