Medical notes

Scientists have identified a gene which they believe causes bipolar disorder. New research published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, indicates that a mutation in a gene that regulates sensitivity to brain neurotransmitters such as dopamine, causes bipolar disorder in as many as 10% of bipolar cases. The mutation in this gene affects the regulation of when the gene is turned on. They believe that the effect of this is hypersensitivity to dopamine, leading to the mood extremes that characterise bipolar disorder. Scientists have long debated the genetic roots of the disorder - also known as manic depression - but this is the first study to pinpoint a precise gene involved in the disease. They hope that this discovery will help improve the treatments available.

A new contraceptive "pill by patch" has gone on the market this week. The Evra patch works in the same way as the pill, but you only need to remember to change it once a week rather than taking a daily pill. The beige matchbox-sized patch is super sticky, and designed not to come off in the bath. The side-effects are no different to the oral pill, though some people may react to the patch itself - and it's available on the NHS.

And another amazing invention, a magnetic device to relieve period pain. According to clinical trials, 94% of the women who tried it experienced some relief from menstrual pain; 47% said that it completely relieved pain, and miraculously 70% said they felt less irritable. The teardrop-shaped magnet, which is slightly larger than a 50p coin, is designed to be attached to the clothing nearest your womb, and it lasts for ever. Its makers claim it works by increasing the oxygen in the blood, which eases the contractions which cause the cramps. We're not sure what it does to reduce the crankiness though. This potential example of genius is available from Lloyds pharmacy stores and goes by the rather unfortunate name of LadyCare.

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