Lithium as Treatment for Parkinson's Disease

A number of interesting studies on lithium have turned up in recent years, such as its possible association with longevity in humans. Here researchers are testing it against Parkinson's disease: "A two-year study of the effects of lithium treatment on Parkinson's disease in mice has given researchers at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging hope that the drug may halt brain damage in humans with the degenerative disorder. The research found that lithium, the Food and Drug Administration-approved drug most commonly used to treat bipolar disorder, 'profoundly prevents the aggregation of toxic proteins and cell loss associated with Parkinson's disease' in mice. ... In the last couple of years, there's been kind of a growing body of data that suggests that lithium could have some neuroprotective effects ... Other diseases lithium treatment may benefit include Alzheimer's, Huntington's and Lou Gehrig's. ... In addition, recent studies have suggested that the naturally occurring substance may extend life span. ... The group is now doing preclinical research on dose level and other issues and hopes to raise funds for a clinical trial with humans as soon as possible. ... Nonetheless, it is too early to draw conclusions, [as] medications that appear to halt Parkinson's in animals don't necessarily work the same way in humans. Lithium's potential for toxicity is also of concern, particularly because Parkinson's patients are often quite fragile, he said. In at least two known cases, toxic levels of the drug have actually caused Parkinson's."

Link: http://www.mercurynews.com/health/ci_18361882


Most of the online papers seem to attribute lithium's beneficial effects on its inhibition of Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 (GSK-3). It is interesting that many flavonoids, e.g., luteolin and diosmin, also inhibit GSK-3. Several other drugs (like valproic acid) seem to act synergistically with lithium. Perhaps some of the nutraceuticals do also, and permit a lower, safer dose of lithium when used in combinations?

However, there is at least one paper that indicates that lithium can increase inflammatory IL-6 levels. The therapeutic window needs to be determined.

Posted by: Lou Pagnucco at June 28th, 2011 8:55 AM

A Google literature search I did in response to your comment found studies in which lithium decreased IL-6 levels.

Posted by: BOB at July 6th, 2011 10:36 PM

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