Mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder are devastating brain illnesses that are major causes of disability and mortality worldwide. In fact, one in six of us will develop depression or bipolar illness at some point in our lives. Better treatments are needed, but without living brain cells to study, progress has been limited. We are now taking skin cells from healthy control and bipolar patients, reversing the biological clock and causing them to turn into embryonic stem cells that can form any cell of the body. The stem cells are then coaxed to form neurons and glial cells of the brain so that we can study (in a dish!) the responses of bipolar neurons to a variety of new treatments. Understanding the origins of bipolar disorder and identifying personalized treatments—those that work for each individual—may now be achievable goals.
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