NARSAD Grantee Discovers Predictor of Psychosis in Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia

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NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grantee, Martin Schalling, M.D., Ph.D., Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, Expert on Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Research
Martin Schalling, M.D., Ph.D.

NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grantee, Martin Schalling, M.D., Ph.D. was among a team of researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden who recently discovered a genetic variant of an enzyme in the brain that can lead to psychosis in both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The results of this study were reported online in Molecular Psychiatry on March 5th.

Kynurenic Acid (KYNA), a substance in the brain that affects several signaling pathways integral to cognitive function, is found at higher levels in the brains of people with psychosis. It is known that KYNA is produced in inflammation, when the body is responding to stress and/or infection, but it has not been known why the levels are elevated in those patients with psychosis.

Dr. Shalling and team
found that individuals with a specific genetic variant of an enzyme called “KMO” have elevated levels of KYNA. The team also discovered that in patients with bipolar disorder with this variant of KMO, the likelihood of developing psychosis nearly doubles.

"Psychosis related to bipolar disease has a very high degree of heredity, up to 80 per cent, but we don't know which genes and which mechanisms are involved," said Dr. Schalling, Professor of medical genetics at Karolinska Institutet's Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery. "This is where our study comes in, with a new explanation that can be linked to signal systems activated by inflammation. This has consequences for diagnostics, and paves the way for new therapies, since there is a large arsenal of already approved drugs that modulate inflammation."

Read the press release for more details on this study

Article comments

very exciting!!

Yes, from personal experience with bipolar mood disorder and history of postpartum psychosis, this theory matches personal experience, or at least appears to at first read. Thank you for researching KMO.

I'm so glad to see the work being done in this field. I have Bi-polar disorder 1 and 2 very happy to know there is light at the end of the road.

The problem with these discoveries is that for people like me the news is soo new that nobody takes it seriously. Where are advocates speaking on behalf of manic depressives. I have been diagnosed bipolar type 1 and schizo effective since I was 13 years old. I'm 25 and a disabled veteran that cannot get benefits of medication without having to put my entire life on hold for a year and try and remain "normal" without any help. I have been hospitalized 5 times in my life and I have taken everything from Lithium to Lamictal. Now, when I cannot shut off my head what does anybody do about it? Nothing take away more of my rights. Nobody even believes that this is a real thing. MY family treats me like I choose to do things like finalize a divorce and get married again 2 hours later to a woman I just met and got pregnant, then they think I choose to go 6 months playing world of warcraft and not leaving my home. WHY WOULD ANYBODY CHOOSE THIS?!?! Please, somebody, do I need a lawyer? All I want is to see my kids grow up with a healthy relationship between us. I just want a normal life. My head is soo cluttered lately I can feel reality slipping away. Somebody help me please! I would do it myself if I wasn't in the devil's playground.

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Please note that researchers cannot give specific recommendations or advice about treatment; diagnosis and treatment are complex and highly individualized processes that require comprehensive face-to- face assessment. Please visit our "Ask an Expert" section to see a list of Q & A with NARSAD Grantees.
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