A team of scientists from the University of Michigan Medical School studied a line of stem cells derived from patients with bipolar disorder to determine what, if any, differences could be found between these and the cells of people without the disorder.
The cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), were created by converting skin cells from patients or controls into stem cells. The team then allowed these cells to develop into neurons in vitro. The team found that the cells from patients with bipolar disorder were different in how they “express certain genes, how they differentiate into neurons, how they communicate, and how they respond to lithium,” said scientist Sue O’Shea, Ph.D., in a statement.
Specifically, the cells showed significant differences in their expression of cell-surface receptors and calcium channels, and in how the cells behaved when treated with lithium. The cells also differentially expressed genes involved in development.
The scientists say they hope this research helps pave the way for studying treatments at a cellular level rather than through trial and error in human subjects, and that the “iPSC cell lines themselves provide an important resource for comparison with other neurodevelopmental disorders.” Their findings were published online on March 25, 2014 in the journal Translational Psychiatry.