Lithium tested as Parkinson's drug

June 25, 2011 at 1:10 AM

NOVATO, Calif., June 25 (UPI) -- Lithium, used to treat bipolar disorder, prevents the buildup of toxic proteins and cell loss associated with Parkinson's disease, U.S. researchers say.

Lead author Julie Andersen of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging says preclinical research is under way to determine correct dosages for the drug and the Buck Institute is working toward initiating Phase IIa clinical studies of lithium in humans in conjunction with standard Parkinson's disease drug therapy.

"This is the first time lithium has been tested in an animal model of Parkinson's disease," Andersen says in a statement. "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."

The researchers fed mice bred for Parkinson's disease levels of lithium that were at the low end of the therapeutic range, Andersen says.

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

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