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More good news about the magic ion: lithium may prevent dementia

  • Allan H. Young (a1)

Lithium is an established treatment for affective disorders with good evidence of antisuicidal properties. Alzheimer's disease rates are relatively reduced in patients with bipolar disorder on lithium and a recent trial of lithium in amnestic minimal cognitive impairment is indicative of potential benefits. This should stimulate further, larger-scale studies.

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More good news about the magic ion: lithium may prevent dementia

  • Allan H. Young (a1)
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lithium may prevent dementia

Bheemraya Hanmanthraya, psychiatrist
14 September 2011

I noted with great interest the current article by Alan H Young. It is really exciting to read more and more about the therapeutic benefits oflithium in clinical practice right from its use in medieval times when people had noticed that certain mineral springs had curative powers for people suffering from mania or depression.Even 2nd century AD Greek physician Seranus Ephesios had recommended use of natural water such as alkaline springs for the treatment of mania.

Over the next two ensuing millennia many people have used this salt water all over the world for various ailments both in the form of drinkingand also soaking in the spas. It wouldn`t surprise me, if it would have been lithium in this water which was the hidden ingredient responsible forthe curative property.

Over the last few decades Lithium has been really established as moodstabilizer and gradually research started to discover this naturally occurring mineral's neuroprotective characteristics. Nature has the remedyfor our ailments but it takes long time for us to discover.

There are several laboratory and animal studies and one human study which shows that lithium prevents the formation of amyloid -beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles which can have intriguing implications as far as alzheimers disease is concerned.

Similar study using the mice bred to be highly susceptible to Alzheimer's disease showed that three weeks of treatment with lithium reduced the formation of beta amyloid protein by inhibiting GSK-3alpha.

Another study involving the rodents showed that lithium is effective against the glutamate- induced excitotoxicity which is strongly implicatedin dementia process by stimulating the production of brain derived neurotrophic factor.

Lithium is also thought to have neurogenesis properties according to another rodent based study. Mice were treated with lithium and their brainshowed 25% increase of neurons in dentate gyrus.

Another human study involving 10 patients suffering from bipolar weretreated with therapeutic dosage of lithium for 4 weeks and the MRI brain showed showed increased grey matter in 8 out of 10 patients.

Observing all the recent study findings I would completely agree withAlan H Young that there is a greater need and the urgency for more robust studies involving lithium and its neuroprotective properties. Off course, I can imagine the difficulties one would face in terms of the funding of the research but I would strongly feel that government and other institutions of public interest should give it a seriou thought.References 1.Alvarez G, Mu?oz-Monta?o JR, Satr?stegui J, Avila J, Bog?nez E, D?az-Nido J. Lithium protects cultured neurons against beta-amyloid-induced neurodegeneration. FEBS Lett 1999 Jun 25;453(3):260-4. 2.Phiel CJ, Wilson CA, Lee VM-Y, Klein PS. GSK-3-alpha regulates production of Alzheimer's disease amyloid-beta peptides. Nature 2003 May 22; 423(6938):435-9. 3.Calabrese V, Scapagnini G, Colombrita C, Ravagna A, Pennisi G, Giuffrida Stella AM, Galli F, Butterfield DA. Redox regulation of heat shock protein expression in aging and neurodegenerative disorders associated with oxidative stress: a nutritional approach. Amino Acids 2003Dec;25(3-4): 437-44. 4.Hashimoto R, Takei N, Shimazu K, Christ L, Lu B, Chuang D-M. Lithium induces brain-derived neurotrophic factor and activates TrkB in rodent cortical neurons: an essential step for neuroprotection against glutamate excitotoxicity. Neuropharmacology 2002 Dec;43(7):1173-9. 5.Chen G, Rajkowska G, Du F, Seraji-Bozorgzad N, Manji HK. Enhancement ofhippocampal neurogenesis by lithium. J Neurochem 2000 Oct; 75(4):1729-34. 6.Moore GJ, Bebchuk JM, Wilds IB, Chen G, Manji HK. Lithium-induced increase in human brain grey matter. Lancet 2000 Oct 7;356(9237): 1241-2. Erratum: Lancet 2000 Dec 16;356(9247):2104.

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