The research focuses on the cellular and molecular processes that are involved in bipolar affective disorders, as well as the effects of mood stabilizing drugs, to unravel the causes of these devastating diseases to develop specific diagnostic tests and improve treatment interventions.
Scientists have discovered disturbances in key signaling systems in the brain that play a role in the predisposition to and development of bipolar disorder. These abnormalities can switch on or off panels of genes affecting a number of proteins that in turn, can undermine the resilience of neurons and glial cells (that provide support and protection for neurons) to stressors. Specific molecular mechanisms are being teased apart to develop strategies for therapies that will interrupt and protect against the damaging effects of disturbances in the signaling system on neurons and glial cells in the brain.
Calcium signaling modulates a multitude of vital proteins and cellular processes. Scientists in this section have shown that calcium dynamics are also disrupted in patients with bipolar disorder and have identified some of the possible causes. One recently discovered calcium channel protein, TRPM2, and its gene are involved in these abnormalities and have been implicated in the disease.
Another member of this family of calcium channels implicated in the research is the TRPC3 channel protein. This research group has also discovered that lithium dramatically reduces levels of TRPC3 in bipolar patients. This change appears to be specific to bipolar disorder and may prove to be a useful clinical biomarker for diagnosis as well as identifying