Fabio Rivas, Francisco Pozo, Fermín Mayoral and Maribel Lucena. :: SALVADOR SALAS
The discovery of two known genes related to bipolar disorder (a condition that affects 1.2 per cent of the population) will allow for the better understanding of the causes of the disorder and set up more effective treatments to reduce the impact of the illness. People who suffer from this disorder alternate between periods of depression and euphoria.
The Mental Health unit at the Carlos Haya Regional hospital, as a part of the Institute of Biomedical Research Malaga (Ibima), identified these two genes. This genetic study has been the most extensive to date on this topic and has been published in the prestigious journal ‘Nature’. The results were presented at a press conference which involved the deputy medical director of Carlos Haya Hospital and the Clínico, Francisco Pozo, the coordinator of research in Spain and the unit responsible for mental health rehabilitation at Carlos Haya, Fermín Mayoral, the Director of mental health at Carlos Haya, Fabio Rivas and the scientific director at Ibima, Maribel Lucena.
Dr. Mayoral said the the investigation of the genetic basis of bipolar disorder is allowing for a better understanding of the causes and the predisposition towards the risk of this severe mental illness. Mayoral said, “We are hoping that some of the findings provide new aetiological basis for new treatments that will be more effective and more tolerable, so as to reduce the individual social impact of the disease.”
Fabio Rivas said that starting in 1998 he and Fermín Mayoral jointly conducted, with the Department of Psychiatric Epidemiology and Genetics at the University of Mannheim (Germany), a research project on the genetic basis involved in bipolar disorder. The research stemmed from an initial interest shown by a German scientist who was on holiday in the Axarquía and noticed that there was a high level of suicide in people who lived there; this was further confirmed among families from the Axarquía who had emigrated to Germany. Dr Rivas explains how it has been historically proven that in the Axarquía there is an increased number of suicides; in some case this percentage was nearly double. One of the consequences of bipolar is suicide.
Tracking 100 families
In the last ten years, Spanish researchers have recruited and kept track of over 100 family trees of in Andalucía and other regions of Spain, with more than 1,000 family members affected and not affected by bipolar disorder. Results showed that in 80 per cent of cases the disease is caused by hereditary factors and in only 20 per cent by external ones.
Maribel Lucena stressed the importance that professionals in Malaga have had in the participation in a project of such magnitude, one that has been published in ‘Nature’ magazine, number one in biomedicine. “This is a major milestone that highlights the quality of this group of mental health researchers,” said Dr. Lucena who is the professor of pharmacology and the University of Malaga (UMA).