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Biomarkers for Mood May Alter Psychiatric Treatments

Study finds blood can used to diagnose severity of bipolar illness

THURSDAY, Feb. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Biomarkers in the blood associated with mood disorders have been identified by Indiana University School of Medicine researchers, who said the finding may change the way bipolar illness is diagnosed and treated.

The researchers analyzed blood samples from 96 patients and found varying levels of the biomarkers in participants with high or low mood states. They also found that concentrations of the biomarkers varied, depending on the severity of depression or mania or a patient's individual experiences.

"This discovery is a major step towards bringing psychiatry on par with other medical specialties that have diagnostic tools to measure disease states and the effectiveness of treatments," study author Dr. Alexander B. Niculescu, an assistant professor of psychiatry, medical neurobiology and neuroscience at the university's School of Medicine Institute of Psychiatric Research, said in a prepared statement.

"Although psychiatrists have been aware that bipolar illness and other psychiatric conditions produced molecular changes in the brain, there was no way to measure those changes while the patient was still living. Blood can now be used as a surrogate tissue to diagnose and assess the severity of the illness," Niculescu said.

He said this line of research could have a major impact on the treatment of a wide range of mood disorders, including postpartum depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and assessments for bereavement interventions.

The study was published in the Feb. 26 online issue of Molecular Psychiatry.

Niculescu and his colleagues are planning a larger study to examine the impact of treatment on these mood disorder biomarkers. They also plan to look for biomarkers associated with other kinds of psychiatric diseases.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about bipolar disorder.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Indiana University School of Medicine, news release, Feb. 25, 2008

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