A group of researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at New King’s College London and Icahn school of Medicine at Mount Sinai suggested that there is a connection between bipolar disorder and faster biological aging. The study was published in the journal, Neuropsychopharmacology. Researchers gathered information from 217 people which include 3 groups – one with bipolar disorder; one with relatives of those with bipolar disorder; and another group completely unrelated with the disorder.
Researchers conducted MRI scans in these groups to explore telomere length and their connection to the brain. Bipolar patients who are treated with lithium (the main medication for this disorder) have longer telomeres (an indication of slower biological aging) compared to those who are not treated with lithium. This infers the use of lithium, mask or reverses the aging effects related to bipolar disorder.
Telomeres act like caps, protecting the strands of DNA at the end regions of the chromosomes and are responsible for the aging process. The length of the telomere is a precise measure and promising biomarker of biological aging as telomere shortens each time cell division occurs.