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Researchers have long known that bipolar disorder runs in families and seems to be caused in part by inherited factors. Twin and adoption studies have provided evidence for this theory. It is now generally accepted that some combination of genetic and environmental factors leads to a vulnerability to developing the illness. The challenge researchers face now is finding out more about exactly which genes seem to be involved. Read on to find out more about two STEP-BD related studies that are investigating the genetic basis of bipolar disorder. Our hope is that new knowledge about the biological basis of the illness will lead to better diagnosis and treatment.

The Genetics Repository for STEP - BD Participants (the GRP)

This study is a part of the STEP-BD treatment study. The GRP involves drawing a blood sample from current and past participants in the treatment study. Information from the treatment study and genetic material from the blood sample will be stored at a central place called a repository, sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health. Scientists can then use these materials to study how genes may contribute to bipolar disorder and response to treatment. Currently, more than 1700 samples have been collected. This will be the largest collection of DNA samples to be used exclusively for the study of bipolar disorder. This is significant, because the larger the number of samples available for scientists to study, the more certain they can be of the results.

FaST STEP - The Family Study in STEP-BD

FaST STEP is related to the Genetics Repository and STEP - BD. In this study, researchers are seeking to collect blood samples from biological parents and siblings of participants in the Genetics Repository. These samples also go to the NIMH repository, and are used only for the study of bipolar disorder. This study is designed to enroll more than 1,000 families and to identify genes that contribute to bipolar disorder.

Both GRP and FaST STEP involve only informed consent and blood draw, and participants are paid $25. No medical information is collected from family members and they do not need to have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder to participate. They do not have to travel to a STEP clinic to be in the study. Arrangements can be made for a blood draw at a local lab. If you or your family members are interested in participating in these studies, please talk to your STEP clinician.


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