Low-Dose Lithium Reduces Side Effects From Most Common Parkinson’s Disease Treatment

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by Kara Elam |

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Recently, a group of researchers from the Buck Institute for Age Research in Novato, California released study results in which they found that low-dose lithium reduced involuntary motor movements – the troubling side effect of the medication most commonly used to treat Parkinson’s disease (PD). The study, entitled, “The combination of lithium and l-Dopa/Carbidopa reduces MPTP-induced abnormal involuntary movements (AIMs) via calpain-1 inhibition in a mouse model: Relevance for Parkinson׳s disease therapy,” was published in the latest edition of the journal Brain Research.

The study was conducted in the laboratory of renowned PD researcher, Dr. Julie K. Andersen, PhD Professor and senior scientist at the Buck Institute. Dr. Andersen’s research is focused on understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms that give rise to PD in an effort to identify potential biomarkers for Parkinson’s that may allow early interventional therapy.

In a statement about what she hopes to achieve with her research, Dr. Anderson, said, “My greatest hope is that our work here at the Buck will allow us to diagnose Parkinson’s at the earliest possible stage, so treatment can begin before the disease has a chance to progress. That would free patients to live fulfilling lives without major disability.’’

In this study Dr. Anderson and her colleagues used a mouse model of PD and gave the animals doses of lithium that were equivalent to about ¼ of what most psychiatric patients are prescribed, over a two month period to assess the effects the drug had on decreasing the side-effects associated with the disease. The results showed that the low-dose lithium reduced involuntary motor movements in the majority of the experimental animals throughout the study period.

In an institutional press release about the study’s findings, Dr. David K. Simon, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School in Boston and chair of the Scientific Review Committee for the Parkinson’s Study Group, a not-for-profit network of Parkinson’s Centers, stated “This study suggests potential therapeutic benefit in PD. One caveat is that other agents that have shown clear efficacy in this model of PD have subsequently failed to show benefit in clinical studies in PD (e.g. CoQ10, creatine, and pioglitazone). However, this study provides additional evidence on top of prior work from Dr. Andersen’s lab and others that lithium may have therapeutic potential in PD, which is a hypothesis that should be tested in clinical trials.”


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