June 27, 2011

Lithium Prevents Brain Damage in Parkinson’s

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A new study in animals shows the drug lithium significantly prevents the build-up of toxic proteins and cell loss that is associated with Parkinson's disease (PD).

PD is a progressive, neurodegenerative disorder that affects 1 million Americans. Patients experience tremors, slowness of movement and rigidity. Between 50,000 and 60,000 new cases of PD are diagnosed each year.

Researchers from the Buck Institute for Research on Aging conducted the preclinical research to determine correct dosages of lithium. "We fed our mice levels of lithium that were at the low end of the therapeutic range," lead author and Buck Professor Julie Andersen, Ph.D., was quoted as saying.

"The possibility that lithium could be effective in PD patients at subclinical levels is exciting, because it would avoid many side effects associated at the higher dose range." Overuse of lithium has been linked to hyperthyroidism and kidney toxicity.

Lithium is the gold standard treatment for patients with bipolar disorder. According to the researchers, the drug has recently been shown to be neuroprotective in certain conditions including Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

"This is the first time lithium has been tested in an animal model of PD," Andersen said. "The fact that lithium's safety profile in humans is well understood greatly reduces trial risk and lowers a significant hurdle to getting it into the clinic."

Researchers are working toward initiating a phase IIa study of lithium in humans in conjunction with standard PD therapy.

SOURCE: Journal of Neuroscience Research, June 2011