Lithium might have protective effect against Parkinson's disease, study finds

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The drug lithium has been found to greatly prevent the buildup of the toxic proteins and brain cell loss linked to Parkinson's disease, according to a study conducted on laboratory mice.

In previous animal studies, lithium, which is commonly used to treat bipolar disorder, has demonstrated a neuroprotective effect in diseases such as Huntington's disease, Alzheimer's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Currently, investigators at the Buck Institute for Research have started preclinical studies to determine the proper lithium dosage for humans, and initiate Phase II clinical trials in conjunction with Parkinson's disease.

"This is the first time lithium has been tested in an animal model of PD," said researcher, Julie Anderson, Ph.D. "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 study was published in Friday's online edition of the Journal of Neuroscience Research. The project was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

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