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Body and Brain: Possible link between inflammation and bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder scrawls a molecular John Hancock across the brains of some people. The signature is sometimes visible even before symptoms start, researchers in the Netherlands report.

A team led by Hemmo Drexhage, a clinical immunologist at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, found that certain white blood cells, called monocytes, pump up activity of various genes in people who have bipolar disorder. Many of the genes are involved in inflammation as well as cell movement, cell death or survival, and a pathway that allows cells to respond to chemicals that promote cell growth.

The signature of elevated gene activity in monocytes could help diagnose and classify bipolar disorder and other psychiatric disorders. Published in the April issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, the discovery also suggests that anti-inflammatory drugs could help treat the disorders.

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