“If we can understand more details of the Shh signaling pathway in bipolar disorder, it could dramatically change the way we diagnose and treat these conditions.”
Ginns said that his team is excited at the potential new direction for treatment their research may make possible. They believe isolating this genetic component to the disease may provide an opportunity for researchers to look for physical changes pointing to an increased risk for bipolar disorder.
This may open the door for a molecular diagnosis of the condition in addition to the current clinical methods based on recognized symptoms of the disease.
Ginns compared bipolar disorder to a river flowing over a waterfall, saying, “If you want to cut off the flow of water, you will be more successful if you cut it off high up-river from the falls. Current medications work at the low end, close to the falls. This may work from higher up.”
The team believes the genetic changes that cause the EvC dwarfism take place lower down in the pathway that causes bipolar disorder, which is why having EvC dwarfism blocks bipolar from developing. Ginns said, “If something shuts off the disease, it must be in the right pathway.”
Historically, bipolar disease has been treated as a complex group of symptoms ranging from manic to talkative to depressed to suicidal. This complicated list of symptoms has made finding the cause and treating the disease seem equally complicated.
Ginns believes the research results suggest that the cause of bipolar is actually much simpler than previously believed. Ginn’s team expects the discovery to point the way for the development of new medications to treat bipolar disorder, which would be the first new direction for bipolar medication in the last 10 years.
Good news for patients is that some drugs already in the process of being tested to treat other conditions may prove to be effective against bipolar disorder based on his team’s discovery.
Ginns says the research gives scientists a new genetic pathway to explore that was not previously connected to bipolar disease.