Parkinson’s disease is the second leading neurological disease behind Alzheimer’s. In the United States, more than a million people have Parkinson’s. Many people who contract Parkinson’s don’t notice it early on because it initially affects a particular part of the body and appears subtlety. Overtime, the symptoms manifest in the form of tremors and slow motion due to reduced mobility. This can be caused by stiff muscles, which also can create pain.
Parkinson’s at this point is incurable, and can later on lead to dementia. Research is focused on detecting Parkinson’s early on and finding ways to prevent it from developing into its full-blown stages. Recent studies are showing that lithium may be helpful in treating Parkinson’s, as well as other neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Lithium and Use on Mice
The Buck Institute for Research on Aging in San Francisco recently did a study on Parkinson’s disease. They worked primarily on mice that had a similar condition to Parkinson’s, and the mice were given lithium. Lithium is an alkali metal that is commonly used for treating manic or bi-polar depression. The researchers found that applying lithium to mice helped in preventing the build up of toxins within the brain. The researchers believe that the lithium helped prevent full-blown Parkinson’s symptoms.
Previous research has also been done with lithium and mice in an attempt to find treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. In Okayama University Graduate School of Medicine and Dentistry in Japan, they did a study involving mice that had significant build up of entanglements of tau protein. Tau found within the brain is commonly associated with Alzheimer’s. They found that after the mice received lithium, the entanglements decreased.
Researchers believe that lithium may be useful in helping humans with Alzheimer’s, which like Parkinson’s, is a neurodegenerative disease that causes dementia. They believe lithium can also be used in treating Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease within humans.
Lithium and Use on People
Lithium is commonly given to help reduce or even out mood swings within people with bi-polar disorder. Lithium, in high doses, has been known to produce kidney toxicity, hand tremors, diarrhea and vomiting.
The researchers believe that lithium can be easily introduced into human trials because very low doses of lithium were able to produce results on mice. Using low doses of lithium during human trials would help avoid any side effects associated with high dosages of lithium. Lithium has also been used for many years with patients with bi-polar disorder, so already existing data exists on how someone can react to it.
One of the advantages of using lithium in treating neurological disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease is its low cost. There isn’t a company that has a specific patent on lithium, so it can be produced inexpensively and prescribed broadly to patients.
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