Study decodes role of epigenetic aging in causing bipolar disorder

Study decodes role of epigenetic aging in causing bipolar disorder

“Which of my feelings are real? Which of the me’s is me? The wild, impulsive, chaotic, energetic, and crazy one? Or the shy, withdrawn, desperate, suicidal, doomed and tired one? Probably a bit of both, hopefully much that is neither.”

American clinical psychologist and writer, Kay Redfield Jamison has aptly noted in her memoir what it is like to live with a manic-depressive disorder or bipolar disorder. The brain disorder is characterized by phases of blues, suicidal thoughts and desolation, followed by periods of inexhaustible energy. Knowing the individual in his or her entirety is a dilemma not just for the person but for the loved ones as well because of the unusual shifts in mood and behavior.

A person’s mood is anyways not constant. Even in a single day, he/she could experience a plethora of emotions, ranging from extreme happiness to sadness and fatigue. However, the difference in everyday experience of emotions and bipolar disorder symptoms is the degree. The afflicted people undergo painfully acute mood swings compared to the average person. It severely impacts the everyday working.

Genetics, brain structure, family history and external life events are generally responsible for the onset of the disorder. Now, a recent study throws light on a completely new aspect – role of epigenetics in the onset of the debilitating condition.

Stress associated with cumulative aging and bipolar disorder  

The study conducted by the University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) delved into the role of   epigenetic aging and mitochondrial DNA copy number in the development of bipolar disorder. Epigenetics, a comparatively new science, tells how genes express themselves in relation to various environmental factors, such as stress, substance abuse and social milieu. The epigenetic age of a person can be estimated through a complex process known as DNA methylation or DNAm age.

During the course of the study, the researchers calculated the epigenetic age using the blood samples of 58 respondents, which included 20 healthy people, 16 siblings of bipolar disorder patients and 22 diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In their assessment of the global DNA methylation, the scientists noticed that in comparison to healthy individuals, people with bipolar disorder were more prone to premature epigenetic aging. In addition, older individuals with the bipolar disorder, aged 33 and above, had enhanced epigenetic changes in comparison to the healthy counterparts.

Interestingly, there was no variation in epigenetic aging in younger respondents. Whether they were diagnosed with the disease or not, it remained consistent. According to the study author, Gabriel R. Fries, post-doctoral research fellow in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UTHealth, variation was not noted in sample sets because younger patients were not exposed to the same stressful trajectory that adults went through, which was responsible for accelerating the epigenetic aging process.

Commenting on the revelations, Fries said that controlling factors, including bad lifestyle habits such as diet, smoking, and abusing illegal substances, was just as important as taking medications. Currently, more research is underway regarding the interaction between the biological clocks and the development of this complex that  could pave way for devising new diagnostic methods and formulating more effective treatment plans.

Recovery from bipolar disorder

Nearly 2.6 percent of the adult American population gets afflicted with bipolar disorder in a given year and almost 83 percent of such cases are severe. While some are lucky to have the condition diagnosed in time, others suffer in silence. As the study suggests, epigenetic ageing is responsible for heightened risks of mortality. However, with medication and therapy, one can gain control over the disease.

If you or your loved one is suffering from bipolar disorder and is looking to connect with reputed centers providing evidence-based bipolar disorder treatment in California, you can take help of Sovereign Health. Our team of experts provides all the required support to facilitate recovery and make patients’ lives better. Call our 24/7 helpline 866-973-7164 or chat online with one of our experts to know about our state-of-the-art bipolar disorder treatment centers in California and other parts of the U.S. where the highest level of care is provided to help individuals rebuild their lives.

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