Scientists Explore the Possibility of Fast-acting Medications for Mania
> 1/24/2008 1:04:29 PM

The medications currently used to treat bipolar disorder can take days or weeks to become effective. Fortunately, the discoveries of a recent study may allow for the development of faster-acting medications aimed specifically at treating the manic phase of bipolar disorder. The study, which was published in The Journal of Neuroscience, explored how medication could directly reach a key amino acid, serine 845 (S845), which is found in AMPA receptors in the brain.

AMPA receptors, which are composed of various subunits, are involved in the release of the neurotransmitter glutamate and are located throughout the nervous system. The researchers believe that the overproduction of receptor subunits contributes to mania, and they studied S845 because this amino acid plays an important role in the production of receptor subunits. When S845 within a subunit binds with a phosphate molecule, more AMPA receptors are created and could trigger hyperactivity in brain cells.

The researchers developed
a protein fragment that would directly target S845 within AMPA receptors. Using rats that had been given amphetamines to simulate mania, the researchers found that their protein diminished the rats' manic-like behavior. Later tests on the rats' brains confirmed that the amount of GluR1 and GluR2, two important subunits in the AMPA receptors, had been reduced. These same biological and behavioral changes were also produced through the administration of lithium and valproate, medications commonly used to treat mania. This study indicates that a patient taking lithium or valproate may have to wait days or weeks before their medication takes effect because these drugs are not designed to directly affect S845 within the AMPA receptors. Instead, patients must wait until the medication has indirectly reached these brain receptors before they can find release from the symptoms of mania. By directly targeting S845 in AMPA receptors, scientists may be to create effective medication that elicits a more rapid response.

With continued research into the way S845 affects AMPA receptors in the brain, scientists may soon be able to develop effective and fast-acting medications for mania. Hopefully, research into this study will uncover other factors involved in bipolar disorder, allowing us a clearer understanding of how this disorder develops and how we can most successfully treat it.

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