A blood test to detect bipolar disorder

In France, between 650,000 and 1,600,000 people suffer from bipolar disorder, according to the FondaMental Foundation, which brings together scientists working to combat psychiatric disorders. This particularly restrictive disease, which manifests itself in the alternation between euphoric phases and depressive phases, is today often poorly detected and poorly cared for. But that can change.

Raoul Belzeaux, professor of psychiatry and researcher at the University Hospital and Faculty of Medicine in Montpellier (Hérault), together with his team, has developed an innovative device that can better detect bipolarity in a patient. “Since the most frequent problem is depression, patients are now often identified as suffering from depression and not from bipolar disorder,” confides the psychiatrist to 20 minutes. Between the first symptoms and the correct diagnosis, about ten years often pass. »

Antidepressants are often unsuitable for bipolar disorder

And in the meantime, the disease develops unfavorably. And the antidepressants that are often prescribed to patients who are believed to be depressed are inappropriate for the real ailments they suffer from. For people with bipolar disorder, antidepressants may be ineffective. “So they take treatment for nothing,” points out Raoul Belzeaux. Either antidepressants are too effective and will generate phases of harmful exaltation, or even worsen the depressions and the risk of suicide. »

Screening, developed by the Montpellier professor’s team, begins with a simple blood test in a laboratory. It is the analysis of cytokines, which ensure the coupling between cells, that will make it possible to account for possible bipolar disorders. But not only. These measurements will be mixed with other data, thanks to a brilliant artificial intelligence that is aware of a multitude of medical profiles. The patient’s age, the intensity of the disorders, smoking, etc. must be given to this algorithm in particular so that it can take a decision. His diagnosis must finally be confirmed by a specialist or general practitioner.

This innovative test still has a long way to go. In 2024, Raoul Belzeaux and his team will have to perform a battery of tests to demonstrate that this device is a major advance for the detection of bipolarity. To achieve this, the teacher needs funds. On October 13, he received the Marcel Dassault Prize for his innovation with an envelope of around 100,000 euros. “With the FondaMental Foundation, we are looking for sponsors to carry out this project,” says Raoul Belzeaux. The sooner we have the funds, the sooner we will be able to do an investigation. »

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