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Bipolar disorder

The role of the immune system in mental health

Bipolar disorder (BP) refers to a chronic condition that consists of mood swings between two different mood poles, the high pole (mania) and the low pole (depression). In the course of their illness, bipolar patients may endure an increase in the frequency and severity of symptoms termed progression. 

Despite considerable evidence for the importance of genetic factors in BP, attempts to identify specific susceptibility genes have met limited success. That is, no gene candidates were found so far. We are interested in identifying the genes that increase the risk for BP and the biological mechanisms in which they are act.

Inflammation is the most potent biological mechanism to explain this progression, however, thus far no specific mechanism was identified. The over activation of immune response, observed in bipolar patients, may be due to the dysregulation of Nf-kb, a key regulator of the immune system.

Elhaik and Zandi (2015) reviewed of NF-kB's involvement in bipolar disorder and concluded that there is evidence that NF-kB dysregulation is an important factor in the etiology of BD and related psychiatric disorders. They proposed a mechanism for the activation progression of bipolar disorder.

A flowchart.
A proposed schematic for the mechanism of neurodegeneration in BD patients in relation healthy controls. From Elhaik and Zandi (2015).

Further work should evaluate co-expressed genes in these two systems.


  1. Goes FS, Rongione M, Chen Y-C, Karchin R, Elhaik E, Potash JB, the Bipolar Genome S: Exonic DNA Sequencing of ERBB4 in Bipolar Disorder. PLoS ONE 2011, 6(5):e20242.
  2. Elhaik E, Zandi P: Dysregulation of the NF-κB pathway as a potential inducer of bipolar disorder. J Psychiatr Res 2015, 70:18-27.
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