Smell cell receptors within the nose are giving researchers vital clues to bipolar disorder that might someday improve treatment.

The Study

Researchers removed a sample of cells called olfactory receptor neurons from a group of people who had bipolar disorder. These cells can detect the thousands of odor molecules that are translated by the brain into different smells.

The olfactory receptors of the bipolar patients contained much less calcium than those taken from people who did not have the disorder, notes senior author Nancy Rawson, a cellular biologist with the Monell Chemical Senses Center, in Philadelphia.


"A major issue in treating bipolar disorder -or psychiatric disorders in generalis that it is hard to predict which medication a patient will respond to. So, clinicians go through a series of trials and errors, and the patient suffers until the right medication is found," says lead author Dr. Chang-Gyu Hahn of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Hahn is hopeful that a routine examination of these olfactory (smell) cells might someday be used to indicate which medication a patient should be on. The differences in nerve calcium content may also help determine how much medication patients should take, researchers say.

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