Scientists are trying to crack the genetic code of bipolar disorder to end the trial and error approach to treatment for many of the 250,000 Australians suffering the complex mental illness.
A study conducted at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) will conduct whole genome sequencing of close to 1200 individuals with bipolar disorder.
They have been recruited from the 45 and Up Study cohort study – the largest ongoing study of healthy ageing in the southern hemisphere.
The research was made possible by $2.46 million in funding announced by the NSW government on Tuesday.
Lead researcher and geneticist Dr Jan Fullerton says the study aimed to identify the molecular pathways that increase the risk of the highly heritable condition.
“We are looking for genes which increase risk of bipolar disorder but also we will be looking at genes that may predict responsiveness to pharmaceutical treatments,” Dr Fullerton said.
Bipolar disorder is most commonly treated with lithium, but this is only effective for 30 per cent of patients, leading to a lengthy “trial and error” approach to find effective medication, says Dr Fullerton.