The STANLEY research study is named after The Stanley Medical Research Institute, a non-profit organization that supports research on the causes and treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The STANELY-study is primarily financed by a grant from The Stanley Medical Research Institute and the aim is to identify genes and environmental factors that increase the risk of bipolar disorder. The disorder is caused by an interplay of genetic and environmental factors. Once risk genes are identified, their effect in a specific context can be studied. Heritability is the most important risk factor for bipolar disorder. The risk for a first degree relative (parent, child or sibling) to develop the disorder is 10%, i.e. ten times that of someone without a family history of bipolar disorder. Despite this, genetic studies on bipolar disorder have met with limited success. This is mainly due to the fact that it is a complex disorder where a large number of gene variations interact to induce disease vulnerability.

During recent years, the methodology for genetic studies on complex diseases has developed rapidly. Using methods for genome wide analysis (Genome Wide Association Studies, GWAS) several risk genes for type 1 and 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disorder, prostate cancer, and breast cancer have been identified. This has played an important role in understanding disease mechanisms in those diseases. To find risk genes you need large and well described patient cohorts. The collection and analysis of such patient cohorts is a difficult task. It requires considerable resources to diagnose thousands of patients. By using quality registers – where some of the work has already been done – such projects require less resources and become more feasible.

The individuals in the STANLEY-study have primarily been recruited through the quality register for bipolar disorder but also individuals identified using the national patient register in Sweden, are included. The STANLEY-study is the largest study to date on genetic and environmental risk factors in persons with bipolar disorder. It is part of an international consortium that includes 18 000 patients in total. Previous similar studies in persons with schizophrenia have resulted in major breakthroughs and this study is expected to yield important information on the biological mechanisms underlying bipolar disorder.

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