People With Bipolar Disorder More Likely to Die From Age-Related Diseases

telomere
Credit to flickr.com user ZEISS Microscopy. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

Bipolar disorder may involve accelerated epigenetic aging, which could explain why persons with the disorder are more likely to have–-and die from–age-related diseases, according to researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

The findings were published in Translational Psychiatry, a Nature Publishing Group journal.

While chronological age is measured in the amount of time that a person has been alive, epigenetic age measures molecular markers of chemical modifications to DNA.

“Bipolar disorder has been previously associated with accelerated aging but the mechanisms are largely unknown,” said Gabriel R. Fries, Ph.D., first author and post-doctoral research fellow in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “We aimed to understand from our study the biology of what’s driving the accelerated aging. What we found is that patients with bipolar disorder showed an accelerated epigenetic aging compared to healthy controls.”

The chemical modifications could be precipitated by the disorder itself or by poor lifestyle habits in diet, exercise, tobacco use and illegal substance use.

“Controlling these factors is just as important as taking medications,” Fries said.

Senior author of the study was Joao L. de Quevedo, M.D., Ph.D., professor and director of the Translational Psychiatry Program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at McGovern Medical School.

Using blood samples, the researchers compared 22 patients with bipolar disorder, 16 siblings of bipolar patients and 20 healthy controls. They also found that while older bipolar disorder patients had significantly accelerated epigenetic aging compared to controls, no difference was found in younger patients.

“We believe a difference wasn’t detected in younger patients because they haven’t had as much exposure to stressful events,” Fries said. “This gave us a hint that cumulative chronic exposure to stress would relate to accelerated aging. We would see it more in older people who have experienced a lifetime of stress in dealing with the disease.”

Along with the epigenetic clock, the study included two other biologic clocks: telomere length and mitochondrial DNA copy numbers.

“The epigenetic acceleration correlated with the number of copies of mitochondrial DNA, suggesting that the cross-talk between the nucleus and the mitochondria might be underlying the premature aging in bipolar disorder,” Fries said.

Text provided by UTHealth.

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People At-Risk for Bipolar Disorder May Age Faster

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Credit to flickr.com user Zeiss Microscopy. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

People at-risk for bipolar disorder may age faster, according to a study by Timothy R Powell, Danai Dima, Sophia Frangou, and Gerome Breen. The findings were published in Neuropsychopharmacology, a scientific journal.

 

Telomeres are DNA repeat structures (TTAGGG) at the end of chromosomes. When telomeres are critically shortened, cell death occurs, which makes these structures a biomarker for aging. Lifestyle changes, cellular stressors, and social adversity all contribute to telomere shortening.

Shorter telomere length is associated with cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, and age-related memory dysfunction. Telomere length is associated with the hippocampus, a sea-horse-shaped brain region which controls inhibition and emotion, and helps contribute to episodic memory.

Previous studies have shown reduced telomere length in schizophrenia, dementia, and major depressive disorder. But with regards to bipolar disorder, however, studies have demonstrated both reduced and increased telomere length in patients compared to healthy controls.

According to the Powell study, patients with bipolar disorder taking lithium have longer telomeres. The researchers used DNA sampling as well as magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) of close relatives to bipolar disorder sufferers to determine whether people with the illness age faster.

The scientists found that lithium has a protective effect on telomere length, whereas other medications, such as antidepressants, don’t. Also, the relatives of patients with bipolar disorder had significantly shorter telomeres than healthy volunteers.

This is the first study to demonstrate a link between shorter telomere length and relatives with bipolar disorder. Understanding telomere biology may lead to therapies to maintain telomere length or reverse the shortening process, which means slower aging. Studying the effect of lithium on telomeres may also contribute to further psychological medications which can help patients who suffer from bipolar disorder.

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