A recent development by Curidium Medica, may mean major changes in the way bipolar disorder is treated.

The company, which describes itself as a 'drug discovery and development company,' has been able to classify patients with bipolar disorder into specialized groups. These groups are associated with differences in the underlying mechanisms that trigger bipolar disorder in an individual. This means that more effective, specialized drugs can be used depending on the patient's diagnostic test results.

If this test proves consistent, it means that by simply testing the blood of an individual with bipolar disorder, a vastly more accurate treatment could be used. Currently, it is estimated that at least 2.2 percent of the U.S. population is affected with this disorder, characterized by bouts of a severely depressive state to occurrences of euphoric 'manic' episodes in which the individual feels as if he is 'on top of the world.' In some instances, these pendulum-like swings can occur within the same 24-hour period.

According to Curidium medica, the new diagnostic blood test, could provide benefits in three distinct ways. First, the bipolar disorder patient is being cared for in a more efficient manner with safer and more effective drugs. The pharmaceutical industry also benefits, the company explains, because this development allows more time for development for medications to treat bipolar disorder in a more efficacious manner. Those who pay for the healthcare - from the individuals with bipolar disorder themselves to the insurance companies who have customers afflicted with bipolar disorder -- save money. This in essence takes much of the guesswork out of treating bipolar disorder.

The test is based on the levels of expression of 28 genes taken from the blood samples of 115 individuals suffering from bipolar disorder as well as schizophrenia as well as control donors. The results were then tested using the blood samples of a group of 32 individuals known to have bipolar disorder. This second barrage of testing was important to discover just how sensitive and specific the diagnostic exam is.

Overall, specificity - or the ability of the test to avoid an incorrect selection of a bipolar disorder patient for the correct subgroup - was 94 percent. Moreover, the overall sensitivity - which is what determines the capability of the exam to actually detect the specific subgroup - was 78 percent.

Bipolar disorder is usually diagnosed when an individual is between the ages of 18 and 22. However, it can strike children - this is called childhood-onset bipolar disorder. It can also affect individuals later in life as well.