Bipolar Disorder is Toxic–Literally

neurons
Credit to flickr.com user Anders Sandberg. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

Apparently the blood of people with bipolar disorder is toxic to their brains. Let me explain.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder characterized by changes in mood and energy levels, affecting a sufferer’s ability to function. People affected by the disorder endure periods of both mania–with elevated mood, irritability, and rapid thoughts–and depression.

Lately, researchers have begun classifying patients as early or late-stage. Early-stage patients have dealt with fewer mood episodes; late-stage patients have dealt with more frequent and more severe episodes.

A recent study compared neurons exposed to blood serum from bipolar patients to neurons exposed to blood serum from healthy controls. Researchers Fabio Klamt and Flávio Kapczinski found that the first neurons suffered a significant loss in the density of neurites, which estimate the number of brain connections. However, neurons exposed to serum from early-stage bipolar disorder patients showed no difference in neurite density compared to the healthy controls’. The scientists also found that, except for those neurons exposed to serum from patients at very late stages of the disease, the number of neurons weren’t that different between samples.

Previous studies have shown that people with bipolar disorder have lower neurotrophins–proteins that promote brain growth. Also lowered is the early-growth response 3 (EGR3), a protein which helps the brain cope with stressors such as environmental changes and overstimulation. In addition, another study showed that bipolar patients have abnormally low levels of chemokines–proteins that signal other cells, so reactions to stimuli are slower.

So, what does that all mean? In short: researchers have found definitive proof that the blood of people with bipolar disorder is toxic to their brains. The more mood episodes a person has, the fewer brain connections he or she will create, and the slower their brains will grow. People in later stages of the disease also produce more cells which impair the brain’s ability to deal with environmental changes, inflammation, and stress.

Further studies will concentrate on creating drugs which can offset the toxicity of the bipolar patients’ blood.

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0 thoughts on “Bipolar Disorder is Toxic–Literally”

  1. I love your posts. All the research I want to do… and you do it for me! Summarised in a way I can understand. There must be chemical solutions in our lifetime. Surely. If we are getting to Mars and all that. The older I get, the more episodes I have. Like the OPPOSITE of getting better. My brain will be fried by the time I am 80 at this rate. Keep us posted 🙂

    1. I’m so glad you enjoy the posts! I’ve tried really hard to make them accessible to everyone, and I’m happy that you feel you can understand the research. 🙂 I’m sorry you’ve found that you end up with more episodes as you get older. I hope your disorder evens out soon, and that you can find the balance you need.

  2. Whoa, this is totally new info. to me & *fascinating* to boot! I’m stoked you wrote about this, Cass. The concept makes perfect sense to me, both literally and figuratively. I’ve never believed that bipolar is a “blessing” and/or a “gift” (no offense to those who feel differently than I do – to each her own….) so I’m very comfortable asserting that bipolar has made my blood toxic.

    I’m in some weird mood tonight— I just had a vision of “toxic bipolar blood” for this year’s Halloween costume. I hope you’ll still be my friend after reading this out-there comment! 😱

    1. Oh, Dyane, of course I’ll still be your friend! “Toxic Bipolar Blood” is great Halloween costume. Bipolar disorder is very toxic to the brain, and like you, I’ve never thought of it as a gift or blessing. Thanks for your support!

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