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Call for global bipolar research volunteers

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Australian researchers are seeking 5,000 adults who have been treated for bipolar disorder to volunteer for the world’s largest genetic investigation into the chronic illness that can prove devastating.

The Australian Genetics of Bipolar Disorder Study aims to identify the genes that predispose people to bipolar disorder in order to develop more effective, personalised treatments, and ultimately, find a cure for the illness.

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute (QIMR Berghofer) is the base for the Australian arm of the international study, with collaborating centres throughout North America and Europe.

The study aims to recruit 100,000 participants, with Australian researchers hoping to contribute five per cent of the overall study population.

Approximately one in 50 Australians (1.8 per cent) will experience bipolar disorder during their lifetime.

The complex disorder, which occurs commonly in families, typically results from a combination of genetic and environmental influences. Those living with bipolar disorder may be at higher risk of developing other health issues, including alcohol and drug abuse, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. They also carry a 15 times greater risk of suicide than the general population, accounting for up to 25 per cent of all suicides.

Researchers are seeking 5,000 male and female Australian volunteers aged 18 and older, who are currently being, or have been, treated in the past for bipolar disorder. Their involvement will allow researchers to shed light on the genes that predispose people to the illness to ultimately develop more personalised treatments.

Globally, about one in 50 of the population experiences bipolar disorder during their lifetime. In Australia, it is estimated that 1.8 per cent of males and 1.7 per cent of females have experienced bipolar disorder in the previous 12 months.

Participation in the study is free and simple. Volunteers complete a 20-minute online survey, and those who qualify will be asked to donate a saliva sample. Study researchers will analyse DNA from saliva samples to identify specific genes associated with bipolar disorder. The knowledge will be used to improve current, and develop new treatments for bipolar disorder.

Anyone wishing to volunteer for the Australian Genetics of Bipolar Disorder Study should head to www.geneticsofbipolar.org.au, email gbp@qimrberghofer.edu.au or call 1800 257 179.