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August 13, 1982

Cell membrane defects in mental illness

JAMA. 1982;248(6):633. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330060011007

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The cell membrane, rather than the chromosomes, may be the place to look for biological markers of bipolar depressive disease (commonly known as manic-depressive illness), according to research conducted at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Dallas (UTHSCD) and at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago. Both studies, though unrelated, have detected functional abnormalities in cell membranes that distinguish—with a high degree of accuracy—cells of patients with bipolar depression from those of other persons sampled.

The UTHSCD team, directed by neurologist Jay Pettegrew, MD, reported 100% success in distinguishing the cells of 20 persons with previously diagnosed bipolar depression from those of 20 normal persons. Pettegrew describes the investigation, which he conducted with John Nichols, PhD, Nancy Minshaw, MD, John Rush, MD, and Malcolm Stewart, MD, in the Journal of Affective Disorders (in press).

In the study, intact living lymphocytes, RBCs, and fibroblasts were analyzed within an hour