About 1% of the population is affected by bipolar disorder, a neuropsychiatric condition that includes manic and depressive episodes and is greatly influenced by genetics. Lithium salt therapy has a 50% success rate, and treatment responsiveness is also influenced by genetics. Lithium, like other anti-depressants, stimulates the proliferation of adult neural progenitor cells (NPC), which may result in the birth of new neurons.
However, how lithium stabilizes mood is still poorly understood. A specific gene that appears to control NPC proliferation in response to lithium has now been identified by a recent study.
The researchers used human NPCs derived from fetal brain tissue in cell culture to assess lithium’s effects on inducing neural proliferation. Lithium exposure increased cell proliferation in some cultures, while it did not work in other cultures. The authors then ran GWAS analyses.
Additionally, GNL3 has been linked to schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and individual differences in intelligence, indicating the gene is crucial for proper brain function.