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Updated 11:00 AM July 16, 2007




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Inaugural lecture will focus on hunt for bipolar disorder genes

Around the globe scientists are searching for the genes that make millions of people vulnerable to the highs associated with the mania and the lows associated with the depressions of bipolar disorder.

The inaugural U-M Depression Center Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund Lecture at 11 a.m. July 13 will offer the public an update on that gene hunt.The lecture, to be held in the Rachel Upjohn Building auditorium, 4250 Plymouth Road, will be given by a noted researcher from The Johns Hopkins University (JHU) who is working closely with U-M scientists to find the genes. Dr. James Potash, director of the Mood Disorders Research Program at JHU, will address “Searching High and Low for Bipolar Disorder Genes.”

The lecture is the first in a series named for Heinz Prechter, an automotive pioneer who battled bipolar disorder for most of his life—even while building a successful business and attracting the admiration of friends and family. His suicide in 2001 spurred his wife, Waltraud (Wally) to launch a research fund and support projects aimed at better understanding the disease and finding new treatments.

One of those projects is building the world’s largest private bipolar genetics repository, housed at the Depression Center. The repository contains DNA samples from people with bipolar disorder, and from subjects without the disease for comparison.

Launched in 2005, the repository is used by U-M scientists and colleagues from Stanford University and Cornell University. Last year, a similar genetic collection housed at John Hopkins was moved to U-M, making it part of the Prechter Bipolar Genetic Repository and greatly increasing the ability to perform research on large populations at once.

An estimated 5.7 million Americans have bipolar disorder. Because of the condition’s genetic link, patients’ loved ones, especially their children, are at risk of developing the disease. Although no single gene causes bipolar disorder, the disease has its roots in complex genetic vulnerabilities that run in families.

The lecture series is sponsored by Comerica Inc., Daimler Chrysler Corp., Dearborn Sausage Co., the General Motors Foundation, Neiman-Marcus and Scott Snow Financial Services.

For more information on the Prechter Fund and Genetic Repository, visit

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