Media contact

Dr Meredith Ross
Garvan Institute of Medical Research
0439 873 258

A new project that will sequence the genomes of family groups living with bipolar disorder is expected to identify some of the complex genetic factors behind the debilitating disease.

The collaboration will see researchers at the Garvan Institute, UNSW and Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) use next-generation whole genome sequencing to identify genetic differences that associate with the disorder.

Bipolar disorder is characterised by episodes of mania and depression and requires lifelong treatment. It also runs in families, so researchers know that genetics must contribute to the disease. However, it has been very challenging to identify the specific genetic signatures involved.

UNSW Conjoint Professor Antony Cooper, who heads Garvan’s Neuroscience Division, is leading the project. Collaborators from NeuRA, Professor Peter Schofield and Dr Jan Fullerton, and Professor Philip Mitchell, who heads UNSW’s School of Psychiatry, have identified the family members whose genomes will be sequenced.

The team will compare the genome sequences of individuals with bipolar disorder and their families with the genome sequences of unrelated healthy individuals, in order to identify genes that contribute to the illness.

Professor Cooper said whole genome sequencing is a powerful approach to finding disease-causing mutations.

“We expect to identify a number of bipolar-associated mutations in this study,” he said.

“This genomic information will be critical to identify the molecular basis of bipolar disorder and we hope that it will ultimately lead to targeted therapies for its treatment.”

The project is supported by funding from the MLC Community Foundation.

Read the full Garvan media release here.