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Mol Psychiatry. 2004 Aug;9(8):734-55.

Emerging experimental therapeutics for bipolar disorder: insights from the molecular and cellular actions of current mood stabilizers.

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Laboratory of Molecular Pathophysiology, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Bipolar disorder afflicts approximately 1-3% of both men and women, and is coincident with major economic, societal, medical, and interpersonal consequences. Current mediations used for its treatment are associated with variable rates of efficacy and often intolerable side effects. While preclinical and clinical knowledge in the neurosciences has expanded at a tremendous rate, recent years have seen no major breakthroughs in the development of novel types of treatment for bipolar disorder. We review here approaches to develop novel treatments specifically for bipolar disorder. Deliberate (ie not by serendipity) treatments may come from one of two general mechanisms: (1) Understanding the mechanism of action of current medications and thereafter designing novel drugs that mimics these mechanism(s); (2) Basing medication development upon the hypothetical or proven underlying pathophysiology of bipolar disorder. In this review, we focus upon the first approach. Molecular and cellular targets of current mood stabilizers include lithium inhibitable enzymes where lithium competes for a magnesium binding site (inositol monophosphatase, inositol polyphosphate 1-phosphatase, glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3), fructose 1,6-bisphosphatase, bisphosphate nucleotidase, phosphoglucomutase), valproate inhibitable enzymes (succinate semialdehyde dehydrogenase, succinate semialdehyde reductase, histone deacetylase), targets of carbamazepine (sodium channels, adenosine receptors, adenylate cyclase), and signaling pathways regulated by multiple drugs of different classes (phosphoinositol/protein kinase C, cyclic AMP, arachidonic acid, neurotrophic pathways). While the task of developing novel medications for bipolar disorder is truly daunting, we are hopeful that understanding the mechanism of action of current mood stabilizers will ultimately lead clinical trials with more specific medications and thus better treatments those who suffer from this devastating illness.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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