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Filling a need

David Bond, M.D., Ph.D.,
will lead the University’s
soon-to-open Bipolar
Disorder Clinic. (Photo: Scott Streble)

U launches new clinic for people who have bipolar disorder

David Bond, M.D., Ph.D., has spent his professional life delving into problems that lie deep within the human brain. Having recently completed his Ph.D. in neuroscience, and with in-depth experience in both clinical treatment for people who have bipolar disorder and research into brain malfunctions, Bond proved to be an unbeatable candidate to lead the University’s new Bipolar Disorder Clinic, which is scheduled to open this summer.

“What we’re hoping to do here,” he says, “is provide the best possible treatment for people with bipolar disorder by setting up a first-episode mania program. We know that intervening early can make a huge difference in the course of brain illness—that’s really been shown at the U’s First Episode Psychosis Program, which opened in 2008.”

Individuals who have bipolar disorder experience huge emotional swings, ranging from severe depression to abnormally high levels of energy that can lead to erratic or even dangerous behavior.

Affecting more than 35,000 people in the Twin Cities area alone, Bond says, this serious brain illness can also be life-threatening: as many as 20 percent of people with bipolar disorder will attempt suicide in their lifetime, and, on average, people with the disease live 10 to 11 years fewer than the general population.

One of the most significant reasons for that shorter life span is obesity, which affects about one-third of people who have bipolar disorder—and as scientists now know, along with obesity comes a host of other medical problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

That link between obesity and bipolar disorder has been the focus of much of Bond’s research. “All other things being equal, we now know that obesity leads to more severe illness in bipolar patients,” Bond says, referring to his earlier investigations on how obesity affects brain structure and function.

“Compared to normal-weight patients, those who gain significant weight spend more time depressed, don’t respond as well to standard mood stabilizing medications, and are less likely to fully recover from mood episodes. Because that link has been established, it potentially gives us a new way to intervene.”

Department of Psychiatry chair S. Charles Schulz, M.D., for one, is impressed by Bond’s achievements and drive to make life better for people affected by bipolar disorder.

“More and more research is noting better outcomes of young people who start treatment early,” Schulz says. “Dr. Bond is adding a very constructive focus on reducing symptoms and improving health.”

At the University’s new Bipolar Disorder Clinic, Bond says, staff will help patients find ways to maintain healthier lifestyles through improved diet, exercise, and sleep habits.

“We know medications help with this disease,” says Bond, “but if we can intervene early and also help patients maintain a healthy weight, is it possible to slow or even reverse the course of the disease? If that’s the case, diet could be key to not only improving their mental health but their general health as well.”

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