Genome-Wide Study Yields Markers of Lithium Response

An international consortium of scientists has identified a stretch of chromosome that is associated with responsiveness to the mood-stabilizing medication lithium among patients with bipolar disorder. While the finding won’t have an immediate clinical application, it is a groundbreaking demonstration of the potential for identifying genetic information that can be used to inform personalized treatment decisions, even in genetically complex disorders. The genes identified are also an avenue for understanding the biology of the lithium response.

People with bipolar disorder experience marked, often extreme shifts in mood and energy. The disorder affects an estimated 2.6 percent of Americans. The mood swings can severely disrupt a person’s ability to function normally; as many as 15 percent of those affected die by suicide. Lithium is a mood stabilizing medication that is a mainstay of treatment. For some patients, it is very effective, virtually eliminating the symptoms. However, about a third of patients respond incompletely, and another third not at all.

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This page was last updated on Friday, January 21, 2022