January 14, 2016

2015 year-end review: Prechter Fund Momentum

What makes a person bipolar, prone to manic highs and deep, depressed lows? Why is it so hard to find new treatments for a condition that affects millions of people worldwide?

Melvin G. McInnis, M.D., FRCPsych, Research Director

From the Principal Investigator, Dr. Melvin McInnis

Bipolar disorder affects individuals across their lifespan and therefore must be studied in a longitudinal fashion.

Enormous progress has been made toward finding the answers to these fundamental questions in the field of neuroscience. Researchers at the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund are at the vanguard of the science of bipolar disorder. These physician-scientists work tirelessly to develop personalized treatments for bipolar disorder and to prevent recurrences to enable those with bipolar disorder to lead healthy and productive lives.

Current Research

The goals of the Prechter Fund are to discover the fundamental biological changes that cause bipolar disorder and develop new interventions to treat and prevent the illness. Researchers do this through the study of the longitudinal course in people who are diagnosed with bipolar. Research involves biology (including genetics), clinical, and environmental features. The illness has a biological foundation, and is influenced by personal, social and environmental surroundings. It is recognized that an integrated approach is needed in order to understand the individual with the disease.

Bipolar disorder is an illness that has been with mankind since recorded history. Research is essential to both treat and prevent bipolar disorder in future generations. Our research emphasizes strategies to identify the illness at earlier stages of development; and among people with established bipolar disorder to test methods to predict emerging episodes of mania and depression.People with bipolar disorder do live productive lives, yet many suffer unnecessarily.

Research Anchors

Our research programs are anchored in the “Longitudinal Study of Bipolar Disorder” and the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Repository.

These studies enroll participants in clinical research and provide a base for the storage of the biological samples and related clinical and environmental data. Thus far, the Longitudinal Study, entering its 10th year in 2016, has enrolled over 1100 individuals. From these participants, billions of data points have been generated through biological samples (DNA), neuropsychological testing, clinical interviews, bimonthly follow-up, and innovative monitoring using mobile devices.

Participants also collaborate with the research team in additional studies that have resulted in the acquisition of several more big data sets in cell biology, sleep, nutrition, physiology, and genetics. Participants generously offer their personal time and information in the search for new treatment strategies. All of the data is stored in the Prechter Bipolar Repository.

Philanthropic gifts support almost 60 percent of the total resources allocated to bipolar research.

iPSC: Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology of Brain Disorders

In March 2014, a team of researchers led by Sue O’Shea, Ph.D., and myself published a report of the first stem cell lines (iPSC) generated from patients with bipolar disorder. This is a powerful model to study cell function, and stimulates the discovery of new molecules that will create and test new medications. The Prechter Fund is a strong leader of biomedical research in bipolar disorder.

PRIORI: Predicting Individual Outcomes for Rapid Intervention

Predicting and preventing episodes in bipolar disorder is a priority and part of our vision. We are using smartphone technology to capture data in a non-obtrusive, in-the-moment manner. The software application runs in the background of the mobile device and gathers the acoustic patterns of speech that are sent to a secure server for computational analysis.

We have acoustic data from over 40,000 calls from people participating in this project. Our data indicate that we can identify acoustic features from speech gathered on a mobile smartphone that predict depressed and manic states of bipolar disorder.

We are actively developing the next phases of this program, which include large multi-site clinical trials to test the efficiency of predicting episodes in sufficient time to intervene.

The Future of Bipolar Research: 2016 and Beyond

We are looking at and learning about bipolar disorder from across a broad spectrum of scientific and technological disciplines.

It is clear from the research trajectory of the past decades that there is no one specific approach that will lead to the fundamental knowledge of bipolar disorder and provide specialized treatments and prevention for bipolar disorder. Rather, it is this combined, multidisciplinary, dynamic approach that we believe will be successful.

Live well,

[email protected]