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Getting to grips with depression

 

Stephen Fry with Professor Nick Craddock

When actor, comedian and writer Stephen Fry sought to understand his years of torment with bipolar disorder his journey took him to the School of Medicine at Cardiff University.

For his BBC television documentary his research into the disease included discussions at the University’s Neuropsychiatric Genetics Unit, where Professor Nick Craddock is conducting the world’s largest study into bipolar disorder.

With depression on the increase — and potentially the second largest cause of medical disability in the world by 2020 - this is research which is of ever increasing importance.

Professor Craddock’s work is likely to identify several genes as playing a part in depression. He explained, "Genes can make someone susceptible but external triggers will play a big role in determining whether that person goes on to develop bipolar disorder."

The Neuropsychiatric Genetics Unit brings together experts in psychiatry, psychology, sociology, molecular biology and statistics to identify how genetic and environmental factors interact in mental disease.

Professor Craddock is also looking at traditional classifications of mental diseases such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder to improve their diagnosis and treatment.

The quality and promise of his research has won investment of more than £1Million from the Wellcome Trust enabling him to study more than half a million genetic variants in 2,600 patients. If it can be shown that schizophrenia and depression have the same genetic cause, we may have to re-think the conventional dividing lines between the diseases.