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Top 10 Repurposed Drug Candidates for Bipolar Disorder Uncovered via Gene Network Analysis (2024 Study)

Bipolar disorder (BD) remains a complex psychiatric condition with limited therapeutic options, posing a significant challenge in drug discovery.

The latest research leverages network-based drug repurposing, employing advanced computational techniques to identify novel treatment strategies for bipolar disorder.


  • Network-based drug repurposing employs gene regulatory networks to identify potential new uses for existing drugs in treating bipolar disorder.
  • The approach focuses on transcription factors (TFs) that regulate genes affecting immune response, energy metabolism, cell signaling, and cell adhesion pathways.
  • This method has led to the identification of 10 promising drug repurposing candidates, including novel targets like PARP1 and A2b.
  • The study emphasizes the need for further research into these candidates, with some like kaempferol and pramocaine showing preclinical evidence of efficacy.

Source: Journal of Affective Disorders (2024)

The Need for New Drugs in Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder (BD) is a complex mental health condition characterized by extreme mood swings, including episodes of mania and depression.

Despite significant advances in psychiatric medicine, there remains a substantial need for new drugs in the treatment of BD due to several critical factors.

  • Limited Efficacy of Current Treatments: Existing medications, including mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants, are not universally effective. A significant proportion of patients do not respond adequately to current treatment options.
  • Side Effects & Long-term Health Risks: Many BD medications are associated with severe side effects like weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and cognitive impairment. Long-term use raises concerns about physical health complications, impacting patient compliance and quality of life.
  • Treatment Resistance: A subset of BD patients exhibits treatment resistance, where conventional therapies fail to alleviate symptoms effectively, necessitating the exploration of new pharmacological strategies.
  • Disease Complexity & Individual Variation: BD’s etiology is multifaceted, involving genetic, neurobiological, and environmental factors. This complexity means that a one-size-fits-all approach is often insufficient, and personalized treatment strategies are required.
  • Managing Comorbidities: BD often co-occurs with other mental health disorders and medical conditions, which complicates treatment. New drugs that can safely and effectively manage these comorbidities are needed.

The Potential of Drug Repurposing in Bipolar Disorder

Drug repurposing, the process of finding new uses for existing drugs, offers significant potential in the treatment of Bipolar Disorder (BD) for several reasons:

Accelerated Development & Approval Process: Repurposed drugs have already passed significant regulatory hurdles, including safety and toxicity assessments. This can expedite the development process, making treatments available more quickly than developing new drugs from scratch.

Cost-Effectiveness: The repurposing of existing drugs can be more cost-effective than new drug development, which is beneficial for healthcare systems and patients, especially in lower-income regions.

Known Pharmacological Profiles: Existing drugs have well-characterized pharmacological profiles, which can provide valuable insights into how they might act in the context of BD and facilitate predictions about their efficacy and safety.

Uncovering Novel Therapeutic Mechanisms: Repurposing can uncover previously unknown mechanisms of action that are effective in treating BD, broadening our understanding of the disease and revealing new therapeutic targets.

Addressing Unmet Medical Needs: Given the complexity of BD and the variability in patient response to treatment, drug repurposing offers an avenue to discover more personalized treatment options, addressing specific aspects of the disorder not adequately managed by existing therapies.

Gene Network Analysis in Bipolar Disorder Drug Repurposing (Why use it?)

Gene network analysis is a powerful tool in drug repurposing for bipolar disorder, offering several key advantages:

Identifying Disease Mechanisms: Analyzing gene regulatory networks helps in understanding the molecular and genetic underpinnings of BD. It can reveal key pathways and genes implicated in the disorder.

Target Identification: By mapping how genes interact in BD, researchers can identify potential targets for drug action, which might be overlooked by traditional drug discovery methods.

Predicting Drug Efficacy: Gene network analysis can predict the efficacy of a repurposed drug in modulating specific pathways altered in BD, aiding in the selection of the most promising candidates for clinical trials.

Personalized Medicine: This approach can also contribute to personalized medicine, where treatments are tailored based on an individual’s specific genetic makeup and the unique characteristics of their disorder.

Identifying Drugs to Repurpose for Bipolar Disorder via Gene Networks (2024 Study)

Truong et al. employed network-based drug repurposing, utilizing computational techniques and gene regulatory networks (GRNs) to identify potential new treatments for BD.

The primary aim of the study was to identify significant regulatory changes in BD by examining variations in transcription factor-gene regulatory networks (TF-GRNs) between individuals with BD and unaffected controls.

The study sought to use these differential network signatures to repurpose existing drugs, potentially targeting the disease-associated gene signature, thus presenting new treatment avenues for BD.


Gene Regulatory Networks (GRNs) Construction

Employing the PANDA algorithm, the study investigated TF-GRNs, incorporating binding motifs, protein interactions, and gene co-expression data.

Utilizing a large RNA-seq dataset of 216 post-mortem brain samples from the CommonMind consortium, GRNs were constructed, involving 15,271 genes and 405 TFs.

Identification of Differential Network Signatures

The differences in edge weights between BD and control GRNs were analyzed to identify distinct regulatory patterns.

The study used the CLUEreg tool in the GRAND database to correlate these differential network signatures with potential drug targets.


  • Significant Regulatory Changes in BD: Analysis highlighted the influence of TFs on pathways related to immune response, energy metabolism, cell signaling, and cell adhesion in BD.
  • Drug Repurposing Candidates: The study identified 10 promising drug repurposing candidates potentially suited for BD treatment. Novel targets such as PARP1 and A2b were highlighted, offering new research opportunities.
  • Pathway-Specific Implications: Enrichment analysis suggested main pathways targeted by TFs, including immune response, energy metabolism, and cell signaling pathways.
  • Validation of Methodology: Some repurposing candidates, like kaempferol and pramocaine, showed preclinical evidence supporting their efficacy, validating the robustness of the study’s approach.


  • Non-Drug-Naïve Transcriptomics Data: The transcriptomics data used in the study was not obtained from drug-naïve patients, potentially influencing the results.
  • Bulk Analysis Approach: The study used a bulk analysis of BD samples, which might not account for the heterogeneity and various subtypes of BD.
  • Potential Bias Towards Well-Studied Genes: There is a possibility that the gene regulatory networks constructed may have a bias towards well-studied genes, affecting the generalizability of the results.
  • Scope of Brain Regions Examined: The study focused on post-mortem dorsolateral prefrontal cortex samples, which may not represent the entire spectrum of pathophysiological changes in BD.

Details of Results: Gene Regulatory Networks & Drug Candidates for Bipolar Disorder

The study’s results are pivotal in understanding the complex interplay of genetic factors in Bipolar Disorder (BD) and the potential for repurposing existing drugs.

Gene Regulatory Networks (GRNs) Analysis

The study utilized 216 post-mortem brain samples to construct GRNs for both BD patients and unaffected controls.

The networks included 15,271 genes and 405 transcription factors (TFs), providing a comprehensive view of the genetic interactions in BD.

Differential Network Signatures

A comparative analysis revealed significant differences in how TFs regulate genes between BD patients and controls.

These differences were particularly evident in pathways related to immune response, energy metabolism, cell signaling, and cell adhesion.

Identification of Key Transcription Factors

The study identified TFs with the most significant differential targeting scores, indicating their potential role in BD pathogenesis.

Enrichment Analysis of Pathways

Enrichment analysis of the differential targeting scores highlighted specific pathways that were either upregulated or downregulated in BD.

Notable pathways included the phosphatidylinositol signaling system, nucleocytoplasmic transport, and Fc gamma R-mediated phagocytosis.

What were the 10 drug candidates identified for repurposing in Bipolar Disorder?

The study identified 10 promising candidates for drug repurposing. Here’s an overview of each, their mechanisms of action, and their potential in treating BD:


Mechanism of Action: Glutamine serves as a precursor for the synthesis of neurotransmitters, such as glutamate and GABA. In BD, the balance between excitatory (glutamate) and inhibitory (GABA) neurotransmission is crucial. Glutamine’s role in modulating this balance could help stabilize mood swings.

Potential in Treating BD: By potentially correcting imbalances in key neurotransmitters, glutamine may alleviate symptoms of both mania and depression in BD.


Mechanism of Action: As a PARP inhibitor, iniparib may reduce DNA damage-induced neuronal death and neuroinflammation. Neuroinflammation is increasingly seen as a contributing factor in the pathophysiology of BD.

Potential in Treating BD: Iniparib could offer neuroprotective effects, possibly reducing the severity of mood episodes or slowing disease progression.


Mechanism of Action: It acts as a dopamine antagonist. Dopamine dysregulation is a key aspect of BD, particularly in manic phases.

Potential in Treating BD: Alizapride may help in stabilizing mood by modulating the dopaminergic system, possibly having a calming effect on manic symptoms.

SR-48692 (Meclinertant)

Mechanism of Action: This drug is a neurotensin receptor antagonist. Neurotensin is involved in the regulation of dopamine and other neurotransmitter systems implicated in BD.

Potential in Treating BD: By influencing neurotransmitter systems, SR-48692 might offer new therapeutic pathways, particularly in addressing symptoms like psychosis or agitation.


Mechanism of Action: An adenosine receptor antagonist, acefylline could influence inflammatory pathways in the brain. Inflammation is increasingly recognized as a component of BD pathophysiology.

Potential in Treating BD: Its role in modulating neuroinflammation might contribute to mood stabilization and cognitive improvements in BD patients.


Mechanism of Action: Vidarabine is used against herpes simplex virus infections. Emerging research suggests a potential link between viral infections and psychiatric conditions like BD.

Potential in Treating BD: If a viral link to BD is established, vidarabine could play a role in treatment by addressing the underlying infection-related triggers of the disorder.


Mechanism of Action: As an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, kaempferol can combat oxidative stress and inflammation, factors that may contribute to the pathology of BD.

Potential in Treating BD: Its neuroprotective properties could help in mitigating mood swings and improving overall brain health in BD.


Mechanism of Action: This histamine receptor antagonist could influence brain histamine levels, affecting mood and alertness.

Potential in Treating BD: Emedastine might provide mood stabilization by modulating histaminergic neurotransmission, potentially beneficial in both manic and depressive phases.


Mechanism of Action: Targeting the translocator protein (TSPO), PK-11195 is involved in modulating mitochondrial function and cellular stress response.

Potential in Treating BD: Given the role of mitochondrial dysfunction and stress response in BD, PK-11195 could help in stabilizing mood and improving energy levels.


Mechanism of Action: As a local anesthetic, pramocaine decreases neuronal excitability. Neuronal excitability is a factor in mood disorders, including BD.

Potential in Treating BD: Pramocaine might help in stabilizing mood by reducing overactivity in certain brain regions implicated in BD.

Each of these candidates presents a unique mechanism that could be leveraged in the treatment of BD.

Their effectiveness, tolerability, and potential side effects in the context of BD would need thorough investigation in clinical trials to ascertain their role in managing this complex psychiatric disorder.

Which are the most promising drug candidates for repuposing in bipolar (from study)? (Ideas)

Among the identified drug repurposing candidates for Bipolar Disorder (BD), several stand out as particularly promising based on their tolerability, side effect profiles, and mechanisms of action.


Kaempferol is a natural flavonoid with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s known to improve neuroplasticity and enhance brain function, which could be crucial in treating BD-related mood swings.

Tolerability & Side Effects: Being a natural compound, kaempferol generally shows high tolerability and a low side-effect profile. Its use in BD could offer a safer alternative to traditional mood stabilizers, which often come with significant side effects.


As a local anesthetic, pramocaine modulates neuronal excitability. This mechanism can be beneficial in stabilizing mood fluctuations inherent in BD.

Tolerability & Side Effects: Pramocaine is typically well-tolerated when used topically. Its potential use in BD, likely at lower systemic concentrations, could present minimal side effects, making it a safe option for long-term management.


Glutamine plays a key role in neurotransmitter synthesis, which can impact mood regulation. Its influence on the glutamate and GABA pathways is particularly relevant to BD, where neurotransmitter imbalance is a key issue.

Tolerability & Side Effects: As an amino acid that’s naturally present in the body, glutamine is generally well-tolerated and safe, even at higher doses. This profile makes it an appealing candidate for BD treatment, potentially minimizing the risk of adverse effects.


Emedastine, a histamine receptor antagonist, may influence neurotransmitter pathways crucial in BD. Antihistamines can have a calming effect on the brain, which may help in mood stabilization.

Tolerability & Side Effects: Generally used as an antiallergic medication, emedastine has a well-established safety profile. The potential central nervous system effects could be leveraged for BD without significant risk of severe side effects.


This PARP inhibitor might offer neuroprotective benefits by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, factors implicated in the pathophysiology of BD.

Tolerability & Side Effects: Originally developed for cancer treatment, iniparib’s tolerability in BD would need careful evaluation. However, its potential for neuroprotection makes it a candidate worth exploring, especially if lower doses are effective and well-tolerated.

Takeaway: Drug Repurposing for Bipolar Disorder via Gene Analysis

The study on network-based drug repurposing presents a pioneering approach in the search for new treatments for Bipolar Disorder (BD), addressing the critical need for more effective and personalized therapies.

By leveraging gene regulatory network analysis, it identifies potential drugs with previously unexplored applications in BD, showcasing the power of computational techniques in psychiatric research.

The identified candidates, ranging from natural compounds to repurposed pharmaceuticals, open new avenues for managing BD, each with unique mechanisms that could target the disorder’s complex pathophysiology.

This approach not only accelerates the drug development process but also promises cost-effective and potentially safer treatment options.

Furthermore, it underscores the importance of continued research and innovation in the field of mental health, especially in disorders as multifaceted as BD.

Ultimately, this study represents a significant step towards transforming the treatment landscape for BD, offering hope for improved outcomes and quality of life for those affected by this challenging condition.


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