As an organic brain disorder, bipolar has long been suspected of a genetic link. A family history of bipolar disorder is one of the first things a doctor asks about to help diagnose it. With advances in the genome project and in neuroimaging, several genes have been indicated as likely contributing but research was somewhat inconclusive. The Australian team carefully evaluated its findings through three levels of analysis to make a confident statement that the FAT gene was involved 10% of the time.
10% is nowhere near 100%, but a simple one-gene culprit is unlikely to be found. Instead researchers look towards haplotypes – combinations of genotypes – and gene expression variables.
Genetic research helps scientists develop drugs that work in new ways, and points to the potential to develop early diagnostic tests.
News of the FAT gene find quickly spread through the media. Here’s one good overview of the story in New Scientist.