April 21, 2009

More effective Lithium therapies studied

Welsh researchers say they've discovered a possible mechanism that Lithium uses to combat bipolar disorders, suggesting more effective treatments.

Lithium has been one of the most effective treatments for biopolar disorders for more than 50 years, yet scientists have never been entirely sure how it operates in the human brain.

But now Cardiff University scientists say laboratory tests on cells have shown Lithium affects a molecule called PIP3 that is important in controlling brain-cell signaling. Lithium suppresses the production of inositol, a simple sugar from which PIP3 is made.

Lithium inhibits inositol monophosphatase, also known as IMPase -- an enzyme required for making inositol. The researchers said their findings show that increasing the amount of IMPase causes higher levels of PIP3, which can then be reduced by lithium treatment.

We still cannot say definitively how Lithium can help stabilize bipolar disorder, said Professor Adrian Harwood, who led the study. "However, our research does suggest a possible pathway for its operation. By better understanding Lithium, we can learn about the genetics of bipolar disorder and develop more potent and selective drugs.

The research is published in the journal Disease Models and Mechanisms.