Low levels of a brain protein that regulates gene expression may play a role in the origin of bipolar disorder, a complex and sometimes disabling psychiatric disease. As reported in the August-September 2011 issue of Bipolar Disorders, the journal of The International Society for Bipolar Disorders, levels of SP4 (specificity protein 4) were lower in two specific regions of the brain in postmortem samples from patients with bipolar disorder. The study suggests that normalization of SP4 levels could be a relevant pharmacological strategy for the treatment of mood disorders. "We found that levels of SP4 protein in the brain's prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum were lower in postmortem samples from patients with bipolar disorder, compared with samples from control subjects who did not have the disease," said co-senior author Dr. Grace Gill, an associate professor in the department of anatomy and cellular biology at Tufts University School of Medicine and a member of the neuroscience; genetics; and cell, molecular and developmental biology program faculties at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts. Dr. Gill's laboratory team at Tufts collaborated with researchers from Spain and used postmortem samples from Spain's University of the Basque Country brain collection program to examine SP4 protein levels in samples from 10 bipolar subjects and 10 control subjects matched for gender, age, and time since death. The team focused on the prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum because brain imaging studies suggest that bipolar disorder is associated with changes in the structure of these brain regions. Little is known about the cellular and molecular changes that occur in bipolar disorder, especially in the cerebellum.
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